Dealing With Ambiguity: Johan Maurits, Black Pete and the Crisis of Dutch Identity

Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy, Vol. 47, Issue 1, 2018, pp. 3-12

10 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2018 Last revised: 12 Jul 2019

See all articles by Lukas van den Berge

Lukas van den Berge

Utrecht University - Faculty of Law; Utrecht University

Date Written: March 23, 2018

Abstract

A dominant way in which the Dutch think of themselves entails the image of an enlightened nation, too small to be really significant in world politics but nevertheless important as an ethical guiding light for other nations. In a globalizing world, that self-congratulatory image has recently been severely challenged, with public debate being dominated by the opposing sides of those who one-sidedly debunk Dutch culture and politics as oppressive and violent and others who persist in the myth of innocent bystander-ship and enlightened progressivism. Many scholars and publicists have called for a more nuanced discussion, typically emphasizing the ‘grey middle ground’ in between black and white opposites. This paper starts out by providing short accounts of Johan Maurits’ governorship of Dutch Brazil (1637-1644) and the stereotyped persona of Black Pete (one of the central figures of an annual children’s festival) as two topics of recent heated debate. Subsequently, it proposes an alternative way out of the current Dutch identity crisis while drawing on what may come as a surprising source: ancient Greek tragedy.

Keywords: Legal Philosophy, Postcolonialism, Identity Politics, Atlantic Slave Trade, Greek Tragedy, Tragic Ambiguity

Suggested Citation

van den Berge, Lukas and van den Berge, Lukas, Dealing With Ambiguity: Johan Maurits, Black Pete and the Crisis of Dutch Identity (March 23, 2018). Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy, Vol. 47, Issue 1, 2018, pp. 3-12, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3147838 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3147838

Lukas Van den Berge (Contact Author)

Utrecht University ( email )

Vredenburg 138
Utrecht, 3511 BG
Netherlands

Utrecht University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Janskerkhof 3
Utrecht, 3512 BK
Netherlands

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