Throughout Europe, xenophobic and cultural racist repertoires have become prominent across the entire spectrum of politics. Generally, this xenophobic turn is understood as reactive: to September 11th, to the Madrid and London bombings, to the increased influx of non-western, ‘illegal’ immigrants. This is certainly true here in the Netherlands, which recently seems obsessed with ‘protecting’ the indigenous against the foreign. What I will argue, however, is that neither radical Islam nor immigration numbers is responsible for why the Netherlands, once considered so progressive and open-minded, is now among the most restrictive and punitive in the EU when it comes to asylum, integration, family reunification and deportation policies. I propose to look beyond salonfähig truisms about the new culturalism as a product of ‘ethnic entrepreneurs’ or as the outcome of media regimes of representation. While the mobilizing properties of these phenomena must be recognized, the crux is something different and more fundamental. What I argue for is the need to identify and grapple with the complexities of the relation between xenophobia and neoliberalism: in the case of the Netherlands, the rise of xenophobia as part of a larger process of a mostly market-controlled reclaiming of symbolic forms of collectiveness in an increasingly atomized society.
This lecture was given within the framework of the 2010 School of Critical Theory organized by the Centre for the Humanities in Utrecht. The programme was titled ‘Cosmopolitanism, Peace and Conflict’, and offered trans-national and interdisciplinary approaches drawn from the humanities, social sciences, law, philosophy and international relations. Its focus on the development of crossnational European perspectives in these areas, allows for the innovative use of key notions of cosmopolitanism and diversity as bridge-makers across different national, cultural and disciplinary traditions. The school consisted of three clusters, which focused on Populism and anti-cosmopolitanism in Europe today, Frames of War, and Legal Theory and Cosmopolitics.