What characterises Dutch identity? What are the core values of Dutch society? How do feelings of national identity clash with modernisation, individualisation, Europeanisation, globalisation and migration? Since the 1990s, questions such as these have been prominent on the national agenda. Not only are they actively debated in the public sphere, but they also form the starting point for a growing series of government reports and scientific studies. In recent decades, government agencies such as Statistics Netherlands, the Netherlands Institute for Social Research, the Scientific Council for Government Policy and the Dutch Language Union have produced and curated numerous reports and recommendations, using various research methods and techniques to investigate and define Dutch identity.


NL-Lab researches this practice of ‘Writing the Netherlands’, because we believe that it is important to chart the scientific landscape of which we ourselves form a part. Although national identity is a pressing scientific and socio-political issue, there has been little research on the role played by advisory boards and research institutes in processes of identity formation and perpetuation. Our research covers issues such as the relationship between these agencies and the wider academic world. We consider the characteristics of the studies and reports they produce: can they be classed as a separate genre? To what extent are the authors of advisory reports aware of their place in a certain tradition? We are also interested in the question of what kind of Dutch identity was constructed in these publications over the years, and the impact that the reports had.


These issues are topical, because the practice of ‘Writing the Netherlands’ is very much alive today. In their reports, advisory boards usually present themselves as scientifically objective and factual. However, mapping out the Dutch and Dutch identity (or identities) is by no means a neutral business by definition. Scientific research studies not only offer a definition of what the Netherlands and ‘Dutchness’ are, but they also influence how we think about the Netherlands. Our research also considers the role played by the KNAW’s institutes; after all, they worked on mapping out the Dutch language and culture, too, with governmental support.


Planned publications and activities