People out of place: allochthony and autochthony in the Netherlands' identity discourse — metaphors and categories in action

  • Dvora Yanow
  • Marleen van der Haar

DOI: 10.1057/jird.2012.13

Cite this article as:
Yanow, D. & van der Haar, M. J Int Relat Dev (2013) 16: 227. doi:10.1057/jird.2012.13


As with much of Europe, the Netherlands has no explicit ‘race’ discourse; however, the state, through its public policy and administrative practices, does categorise its population along ‘ethnic’ lines, using birthplace — one's own or one's (grand-) parent's — as the surrogate determining factor. The contemporary operative taxonomy has until recently been binary: autochtoon (of Dutch heritage) and allochtoon (of foreign birth). Used earlier at the provincial level in respect of internal migration, the taxonomy was expanded in 1999 to demarcate between ‘Western’ allochtoon and ‘non-Western’ allochtoon, with the latter being further subdivided into first and second generation. Informed by a ‘generative metaphor’ approach (Schon 1979) that links cognition to action, this article subjects the allochtoon/autochtoon binary to metaphor analysis and the Western/non-Western taxonomy to category analysis. The work done by ‘birthplace’ in the term pair suggests that they are, in their everyday usage, surrogates for a race discourse, carrying the same (ancient) assumptions about individual identity and the earth-air-sun-water of the spot on which one was born that underlies definitions-in-use of ‘race’. Their meaning in contemporary policy discourse derives from the interaction of metaphoric and category structures, with implications for policy implementation.


allochthony ethnicity integration policy interpretive policy analysis race 

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dvora Yanow
    • 1
  • Marleen van der Haar
    • 2
  1. 1.Communication Science Department, and Department of Sociology and AnthropologyFaculty of Social Sciences, Wageningen University, University of AmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceInstitute for Management Research, Radboud University,The Netherlands