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Tolerance, Identity, and Difference in Amsterdam (Spring Break)

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Term Offered: 
Woman in colorful headscarf in front of somber 17th-century portraits of Dutch elite
Approximate Dates of Instruction: 
March 14, 2021 to March 27, 2021
Application Deadline: 
November 1, 2020

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Russell Shorto has called Amsterdam “the world’s most liberal city,” and indeed, the Netherlands is well known for its “tolerant” approaches to drug enforcement, legalized prostitution, and gay rights. However, recent events have brought this self-congratulatory attitude into question. In debates over immigration and multiculturalism, public commentators from across the political spectrum have argued for the limits of tolerance and the need to defend Dutch national identity against intolerant views, especially those allegedly associated with Islam. Large segments of the Dutch populace—and prominent politicians—have expressed fear, revulsion, and anger towards Dutch Muslims, whether recent immigrants or the children or grandchildren of so-called “guest workers” from Morocco and Turkey who helped power the Netherlands’s economic recovery after World War II.

This intensive, two-week program contextualizes these debates by exploring the concept of tolerance in
narratives of Dutch national history and in contemporary debates about the place of religion, race, gender, and
sexuality in Dutch identity. Using Amsterdam as our site of analysis, we will explore Dutch ideas and practices of
tolerance and reflect on how these historical legacies are mobilized in contemporary debates over national
identity. We will meet with Dutch academics, politicians, and local activists, and students will be asked to reflect on how these discussions intersect with their own experiences, both abroad and at home.

Most of the coursework will be completed during Winter 2021, with a class meeting once per week; the Amsterdam travel dates are March 14-27. Students will miss finals week of Winter quarter and may need to make alternative arrangements to complete final projects or exams. During Winter 2021, students will participate in a workshop with Dutch writer and former politician Tofik Dibi, whose first book, Djinn, will soon be published in English (SUNY Press, translated by Nicolaas P. Barr).

To learn more, check out this video from the 2019 program (which was co-sponsored by UW Athletics):

  • CHID 470 A: Tolerance, Identity, and Difference (2 credits I&S)
  • CHID 470 B: Beyond Tolerance (1 credit I&S)
  • CHID 499: Independent Study (optional, 2 credits)
Fulfills Requirements: 
CHID Cultural and Historical Engagement
CHID Ideas in the World
CHID Power & Difference
I&S Credit
Total Program Fees: 

*Note that additional costs include, but are not limited to: airfare, Study Abroad Insurance ($1.72/day), and personal spending money. These costs will differ by program. Be sure to read our Fees, Financing, and Withdrawal information for details about the fee structure and payment schedule.