Revisiting Race in European Sociology: The Case of Dutch Sociology

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 132 (University of Glasgow)
Jacob Boersema , Sociology, Columbia University
This paper addresses the absence of critical race-thinking in European sociology, taking Dutch sociology as a case study. The current success of the antiracism movement in the Netherlands, and the popularity of long marginalized race scholars such as Philomena Essed and Gloria Wekker, raises important questions for white European sociologists, like the Dutch, who have long dismissed the concepts of race and racism as useful analytical tools to analyze European societies. The reluctance of social scientists to take race seriously reflects the broader marginalization of critical race-thinking in European societies.  However, the absence of a critical race discourse also has specific sociological reasons this paper aims to revisit. This paper addresses the question how and why race as analytical framework has so long been marginalized in Dutch sociology. I answer this question in two steps. First, I start with a brief historical overview of how Dutch sociologists, specifically urban sociologists, have dealt with race in their theories and research. I analyze in particular how Dutch sociologists have translated American research and concepts on segregation to the Dutch context.  Second, I critically engage with a number of scholars who have argued against the use of an analytical framework based on critical race thinking. Finally, I present historical, political, and analytical reasons why Dutch sociology, and European sociology more broadly, could benefit from applying critical race thinking in research.