- ‘We have given up so much’: Passion and denial in the Dutch Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) controversy
- European Journal of Cultural Studies
- Volume | Issue number
- 19 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
Forceful debate has erupted in the Netherlands over the celebration of Sinterklaas in the 2010s. Sinterklaas festivities revolve around December 5 and the giving of presents, mostly to children. The debate centres around the figure of Sinterklaas’s helper Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). While an object of criticism for its implied racism (Zwarte Piet sports an Afro hairdo, blackface, full red lips and big golden hoops) for over half a century, the current actions and demonstrations by a group of protesters have led to rivalling Facebook groups endorsed by some 2 million Dutch, partly in response to an intervention led by United Nations expert Verene Shepherd. This article focuses on the main Facebook page, using ‘passion’ as a key analytical term for the suffering the mostly White Dutch commenters bear witness to. Against a backdrop of increased right-wing populist presence, nationalism has become acceptable again, manifesting itself as the forceful exclusion of the sentiments of non-White Dutch. The passionate defence of national heritage appears to be built on a sense of (White) suffering, which simultaneously excludes the possibility of non-White suffering. The article uses qualitative research methodology to analyse a vast number of posts, and provides more insight into the nature of meaningmaking in and around social network sites by referring to Jenkins, Ford and Green’s term everyday curation.
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