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Dr. Susan Sage Heinzelman, Director 2505 University Avenue, A4900, Burdine Hall 536, Austin Texas 78712 • 512-471-5765

Spring 2008


Unique Days Time Location Instructor


Course Description

The Dutch are commonly known for their "tolerant," laid back attitude towards religious, gender, and sexual differences, as well as such issues as drug use, prostitution, and euthanasia. This course explores both the stereotypes and the actuality of these Dutch attitudes and policies and examines the background to them within the context of Dutch cultural history. An exploration of these issues in the Dutch context allows us to reconsider what makes our own culture(s) tick and offers a revealing look at cultural differences and their genesis. At the same time, we will be asking ourselves how many of these cultural differences will remain in an increasingly global culture in which the Netherlands (as so many other Western European nations) has become strongly tied to an American economy and world view. We first discuss some of the well-known stereotypes held about the Dutch and then explore some Dutch history, in particular the influences over the centuries of geography, of (international) trade and shipping, and of a number of wars. We trace the rise of an unusual feature of Dutch society, called verzuiling or pillarization. We then move on to explore some of the specific debates that form a central role in today's Dutch culture: the role of the state in matters of religion, the Dutch school system, changing attitudes toward social and economic safety nets, race relations (especially after WW II and de-colonization), gender relations, and sexuality. We will also discuss in some depth the recent question of how to respond to a growing Dutch Muslim population in which some preach views that are diametrically opposed to Dutch cultural values. Is it intolerant to reject the intolerance of those particular Muslims? What if intolerant views lead to death threats and murder?

Grading Policy

20% Discussion and participation in class (show up on time and come prepared to discuss the week's texts). NOTE: missing 4 or more classes leads to reduction of one letter grade. 10% Class presentation of a particulars weeks reading, alone or in a pair (once during semester). Come prepared to give a 10-minute talk about that weeks text, and the issues it brings up! Ask for my help in preparation, if needed (dont wait till the last minute). 20% Five short 1-page response papers due every 2-3 weeks (see schedule), questions will be provided. There will be a reduction in grade for papers handed in late. 40% One 6-8-page final paper. Choose a topic with relevance to the class theme, find 3-6 sources on it (some of them can be web-based but run them by me first!) and explore the subject in some depth. A proposal is due by week 11, a bibliography is due by week 13 (they are graded). Comparative topics such as: "X in the U.S. versus X in the Netherlands" work especially well for this kind of a paper. 10% Brief final presentation of about 4-5 minutes (in which you tell the class about your paper and your findings during our last class session).


Ian Buruma Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance and reader with articles available from Speedway Copies (Dobie Mall). The reader includes excerpts fromWilliam Z. Shetter's The Netherlands in Perspective.


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