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Dutch Debates – Topical Questions in Dutch Society, Culture I


Admission requirements

This course is part of the BA-curriculum Dutch Studies. 40 places are available for other (non-Dutch Studies) students.
An open mind and the willingness to get to know the Netherlands and other cultures, is a prerequisite for this course. Although with a large group, this seminar is an interactive one. It is expected from participants that they prepare for the classes and contribute to the discussions, either outside, or during class hours.


The Dutch have created their own country, but how will the changing climate effect this low lying land? Who are the Dutch and what problems does society face when its population changes, in age, in ‘color’ or in religion? Do these changes effect feelings of national identity (if we can decide what that is)? How do the Dutch react to those changes, and does the Dutch reaction differ from other countries’ reactions? These are questions that we will explore in this course.
Five Topical debates will be discussed, each in two sessions: a lecture and a discussion seminar. In preparation for each lecture, students study several chapters from the handbook Discovering the Dutch (check reading list below), and take an online quiz with multiple choice and short open questions (check assessment methods below). In the lectures, subjects will be deepened, broadened, and illustrated with slides.
In the accompanying discussion seminars, we will examine the subject from different angles. Each subject will be studied both from the Dutch perspective and in an international context. For these seminars, students will collaborate in groups and with varied assignment. One of these assignments will serve as a graded midterm assignment.
In class, students report orally on their work in small groups, in which all the different perspectives will be heard. After the discussions, some groups will present their outcomes to the whole class. As participation of all students is essential for this part of this course, active participation is required.
The two final sessions are for reflection, and for preparation for the final paper. In the final paper, students relate what they have seen of the Netherlands with what they have discussed with Dutch people and with what they have read during the course. In the last session, students will pitch their paper, have the opportunity to discuss what they struggle with, and get feedback from their peers.


1 Introduction
2 & 3 A Low Country and a Changing Climate
4 & 5 A Welfare State and an Ageing Population
6 & 7 Religion in a Secularized Country
8 & 9 Politics, Populism and Immigration
10 & 11 National Identity and Traditions in a Uniting Europe
12 15-minute paper; Film
13 Pitch your Paper

Course objectives

During this course, students:

  • will learn the backgrounds of several topical subjects in the Netherlands

  • will read, summarize and recapitulate academic texts and place them in the debate

  • will meet with people and places in the Netherlands and experience the subjects firsthand

  • will develop their intercultural communication skills by presenting and discussing with other international students

  • will work in international groups


The timetable is available on the Dutch Studies website.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours= 140 hours

  • Weekly meetings: 26

  • Study Discovering the Dutch including quizzes: 30

  • The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen: 4

  • Preparation seminars: 40

  • Field Trip, pitch and papers: 40

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

  • 10% - Five online quizzes with multiple choice and short answer questions (no grade, must be completed before the accompanying lecture)

  • 30% - Midterm assignment: summarize and recapitulate a scholarly text and place it in the academic debate

  • 60% - Final field trip, pitch and paper

  • 15-minute paper in week 12: reflection on learning in an international group (must be completed)

  • • Attendance and active participation in the seminars is mandatory; absence or insufficient participation will have to be compensated with a written assignment.

The final mark for this course is established by determining the weighted average.

  • Resit

  • Students who fail the course, will get the opportunity to revise the final paper.

Exam review

If necessary, quizzes will be discussed in the lectures; comments on papers will be available on line.
Unsatisfactory final papers will be discussed with the student.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • program information

  • class materials

Reading list

  • Emmeline Besamusca & Jaap Verheul [eds.], * Discovering the Dutch. On Culture and Society of the Netherlands* Revised and Enlarged Edition. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2014. From this book: Introduction and chapters 1 – 2 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 9 – 10 – 12 – 17 – 19 – 21 – 23 – 24 (170 pgs).

  • 80 pages from: Hendrik Groen, * The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 831/4 Years Old.* (This novel is available in many languages).

  • Paul Vermeer and Peer Scheepers, ‘Umbrellas of Conservative Belief: Explaining the Success of Evangelical Congregations in the Netherlands.’ From: Journal of Emperical Theology 30 (2017) 1-24 (for the midterm assignment; available online)

  • Additional materials and assignments for the seminars will be announced on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


You can contact the lecturer Ms. Liesbet Winkelmolen about the contents of the course, for other general and practical matters, turn to the student adviser, ms. I. Zagar and for administrative matters, for instance if you have problems with registering in usis, the administration of Dutch Studies.


Not applicable