Feminist roundtable about Claudia de Breij’s New Years Eve performance

Image result for claudia de breij oudejaarsconference

© ANP Kippa

I had the pleasure of working on a round table article with four of my dearest Belgian and Dutch colleagues. Academia tends to be a little slow at times, but our debate about Claudia de Breij’s New Years Eve performance (‘oudjaarsconference’) continues to be relevant. Though we started with de Breij’s performance, it quickly led us to a broader discussion about diversity, gender, race and religion in contemporary Dutch public debate.

Citation: Geerts, Evelien; Van Raemdonk, An; van den Brandt, Nella; Schrijvers, Lieke; van den Berg, Mariecke (2018). De oudejaarsconference van Claudia de Breij: Een diffractieve, interdisciplinaire discussie over (super)diversiteit, gender, seksualiteit en religie in de Lage Landen. Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies 21(1): 81-104.

See here for the full article, in Dutch, in Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies. 


This written version of various conversations came into being as a response to Dutch entertainer Claudia de Breij’s 2016 New Year’s Eve cabaret performance. We were enticed to write something about this performance because of the numerous ambiguities that were present in it. What was striking was the fact that we, a group of Dutch and Belgian academics and activists, working in different disciplines but united by our mutual interests in and passion for the themes of (super-)diversity, gender and sexuality, and religion and societal matters, each interpreted this performance differently. From a conciliatory, interconnecting cabaret performance in which alterity and difference were (re)presented as something positive, to a performance that confirmed already-existing stereotypes rather than subverting them: all these different interpretations and impressions are explained in detail in the following diffractive dialogue that was engendered by and through various conversations that took place in Utrecht, the Netherlands in January, May, August, and September 2017.


Schrijvers (p. 100) : “Na de recente verkiezingsuitslagen van de VS en Nederland, waarbij de extreemrechtse PVV de tweede grootste partij is geworden, lijken meer gematigde partijen in het politieke landschap voor een nieuw dilemma te staan: in hoeverre is het nodig intolerant te zijn om idealen van vrijheid en gelijkheid te beschermen? Deze vragen zijn zowel gericht naar etnischculturele minderheden als naar xenofobe politici zelf: hoe ver kunnen de Nederlandse idealen van gelijkheid en vrijheid gaan, wanneer dit voor anderen een gevoel van onveiligheid kan veroorzaken? Dit zijn vragen die ik vaak hoor in het politiek debat, maar volgens mijn feministische en antiracistische hart de plank compleet misslaan, aangezien het discriminatie en uitsluiting in de hand werkt door middel van nationalistische retoriek. Het zijn wel de dilemma’s waar De Breij op inhaakt, en waar het hele conflict zich dus situeert. Uiteindelijk biedt zij, zoals het een goed verhaal betaamt, tot op zekere hoogte een oplossing voor dit conflict. De Breij is
immers kritisch over dit nationalistische discours, wat inderdaad zou kunnen leiden tot politieke actie. Tegen het einde van de voorstelling, echter, is de conclusie dat Nederland toch echt een ‘gaaf land’ is, en roept de cabaretière op om allemaal ‘wat liever’ te zijn voor elkaar als oplossing voor de verharding van het politieke klimaat. Na een dergelijk kritische voorstelling vind ik dit zelf eerlijk gezegd een wat teleurstellende uitkomst, waarbij de toeschouwer toch met een positief en hoopvol gevoel de zaal verlaat, en het conflict opgelost lijkt te zijn.


New publication: Interview with Gloria Wekker

897088ec-61df-4e18-a04e-bea64dedea90White Innocence: Reflections on Public Debates and Political-Analytical Challenges. An Interview with Gloria Wekker

DiGeSt: Journal of Diversity and Gender Studies Volume 5 Issue 1 (2018)
Nella van den Brandt, Lieke Schrijvers, Amal Miri, and Nawal Mustafa.

You can find the journal here . A pre-print version of the article is available on my Academia page.

I had the pleasure of interviewing prof. dr. emirita Gloria Wekker with three dear colleagues in the Winter of 2017. With great pride and gratitude toward everyone included in the process, I can now announce that the edited and translated version of this conversation has been published in the journal DiGeSt

This contribution is an interview with social and cultural anthropologist of Surinamese-Dutch background Gloria Wekker. It discusses the debate that ensued in the Netherlands after the publication of her book White Innocence (2016), now translated in Dutch as Witte Onschuld (2017). The interview covers the reception of the book, Wekker’s future work, and her legacy for the academic as well as public debates about gender and race. It goes into methodological questions concerning intersectional analysis and the notion of race as a social construct. Although all of us have a different academic and social background, what we have in common is that Gloria Wekker inspired us for many years. Although we came in touch with Wekker many years ago as a professor in Gender and Ethnicity, she became a public figure after the publication of the book White Innocence. In White Innocence Gloria Wekker explores a central paradox of Dutch culture: the passionate denial of racial discrimination and colonial violence coexisting alongside aggressive racism and xenophobia. Accessing a cultural archive built over 400 years of Dutch colonial rule, Wekker fundamentally challenges Dutch racial exceptionalism by undermining the dominant narrative of the Netherlands as a “gentle” and “ethical” nation. Wekker shifts attention in debates on racism from the victimization of people of colour, to a critical mirror and analysis of whiteness, which sparked many debates in public and political life. 

Through reading and discussing Gloria Wekker’s  work and organising the interview, we hoped to learn more about how we, variously situated in our own disciplines and contexts, could further develop the interdisciplinary and intersectional study of gender through rethinking issues such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and class. Given our various disciplinary backgrounds (anthropology, sociology, law, gender studies, religiousstudies), social positions and upbringings (in terms of race, ethnicity, religion-secularity, sexuality, national/regional backgrounds), and life experiences, we learned a great deal about the different ways in which we all connected and responded to Wekker’s writing.

New publication: “Religious/Secular Discourses and Practices of Good Sex”

I’m happy to announce a new peer reviewed publication in the journal Culture and Religion, written together with my colleague Jelle Wiering (RUG Groningen). The past year, we wrote, thought, and presented together on the relation between sexuality and religion. Specifically, we address some concerns about the way sex and sexuality are studied in the field of religious studies and anthropology of religion. As most of us intuitively know, there is ‘more’ to sex than being heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual, asexual, lesbian, etc. Sex is not only an identity, but a bodily practice. Yet the intimacy of sex makes it a paradoxical topic for academics. For how can one study sex without being trapped in identity-discourses? Is there any way to do research on empirical sexual practices that goes further than discourse, or narration? How can academics understand the relation between discourse and practice in the field of sex and sexuality? Reflecting on our case studies we aim to show how religious and secular ideas of sex do not only shape sexual ethics or moral, but have an impact on the bodily, experiental and sensory qualities of sex. As such, both religion and secularity shape experiences and moralities of ‘good sex’.

Click here for the full article


Schrijvers, L.L. & Wiering, J. (2018): Religious/secular Discourses and Practices of Good Sex. Culture and Religion 19(2), DOI: 10.1080/14755610.2018.1444655


This article focuses on the triangulation of sexuality, religion and secularity in Dutch society by analysing two contemporary case studies. We focus on sexual experiences and practices rather than sexual identities to further understand the constructions of what constitutes ‘good’ sex. The empirical research is situated in the Netherlands, where the binary of religion and sexual regulation versus secularity and sexual freedom has been dominant in both public and political discourse for a long time. Exploring sexual practices and narratives as central to the constitution of both religious and secular selves, we noted these to be fluctuating, inconsistent and subject to discourses. Our first case study discusses sexual experiences of non-heterosexual Protestant women, whereas the second explores the frequently considered ‘neutral’ notions of secularity in sexual education. Applying insights from both religious studies and queer studies, we bring the empirical study of sexuality together with the theoretical debates about the conceptualisation of the secular and the religious in contemporary Western Europe. This comparative approach to sexuality not only undermines the culturally presumed exclusive opposition of the secular and the religious but it also provides new empirical contributions for understanding the interactions between sexual practices and sexual discourses.