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

  • Dvora Yanow
  • Marleen van der Haar


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 



Earlier versions of this article have been presented at the Interpretive Policy Analysis (Amsterdam, 31 May — 2 June, 2007), International Studies Association (New York, 17 February, 2009), and Western Political Science Association (March, 2009) conferences and in several seminars, including a University of Vienna Institute for Political Studies Ganggespräch (5 May, 2008), Tilburg University's School of Politics and Public Administration (22 September, 2008), the University of Strasbourg's MISHA Center/Sciences Po (3 November, 2008), Columbia University's Center for Urban Research and its Policy Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (25 November, 2008), the Vrije Universiteit's Faculty of Social Sciences/COM DHL Workgroup (2 December, 2008), the University of Essex’ Center for Theoretical Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences’ ESRC Networks for Methodological Innovation Mini-conference on Discourse Analysis Networks (10–11 October, 2008), the Institute for Global and International Studies at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, and the Institute for Social Studies, Den Haag (7 May, 2010). Many thanks to Vincent Dubois, Anna Durnová, Lee Ann Fujii, Des Gasper, David Howarth, Merlijn van Hulst, Aletta Norval, and Dorian Warren for making these possible and to them and other participants and colleagues, especially Hans van Amersfoort, Alan Cienki, Kerry Crawford, Didier Georgakakis, Halleh Ghorashi, Steven Jeffares, Niilo Kauppi, Lorraine Nencel, Bowen Paulle, Conny Roggeband, Jay Rowell, Fred Schaffer, John Schuster, Karlijn Völke, and Srdjan Vucetic, for their thoughtful readings of the ideas and their challenges to clarify them.


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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

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