Since February 2017, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam finds itself at the heart of a public debate. Due to a claimed blindness for its own historically charged name, an appeal was done for the institution to rename and no longer represent remnants of the Dutch history of expansion, colonialism and imperialism. The matter quickly evolved into a public discussion and therefore fits a broader range of public debates, aimed on rethinking history and the dominant position of the colonizer within writing the historical narrative. This research aimed to find answers to the question in what ways the name of Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art is contested in the Dutch media. Through the method of qualitative content analysis and an open coding technique, 132 new articles from Dutch newspapers and weekly news magazines were analysed in order to establish what frames are presented by the mediawriters to contest the name. This study found that there are three stands taken within this public debate: (1) ‘culture critics,’ in their role as iconoclasts, explicitly state that the name should no longer be used; (2) ‘culture guards, protecting the use of the name and aiming to maintain it; (3) ‘culture narrators’, who want to maintain the use of the name however, aim to create a more broad and nuanced awareness about its historical roots by changing the narrative. The data showed that these three positions, dominantly used three types of arguments to defend their point of view (1) historical arguments; (2) arguments of social critique; and (3) moral arguments. The content of these three frames is used interchangeable and therefore the construction of these frames does not happen in a vacuum. On the contrary, the three positions are rather rigid and appear to evoke fierce reactions

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Master Arts, Culture & Society
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Takkenkamp, L., & Berkers, P. (2019, September 19). Witte de With, a Name Contested - Insights in the public debate about the historically charged name Witte de With. Master Arts, Culture & Society. Retrieved from