The focus of this thesis is reflexivity vis á vis racism in the context of a long-lasting public debate. Specifically, this thesis aims to uncover individual reflexivity processes vis á vis racism by older White Dutch people amid a public debate around a Dutch tradition involving blackface: ‘Zwarte Piet’. The production of reflexivity refers to engaging in a conscious effort to become aware of and address one’s unconscious biases vis á vis ‘race’ and ‘racism’. However, these processes are not linear, nor are they undergone easily, especially not in the context of hegemonic discourses that have long been (and still are) present in the Netherlands. Hence, this thesis aims to uncover how this debate and a long unquestioned hegemonic status in society impact individual meaning-making processes by focusing on two related research questions. Firstly: How is reflexivity vis á vis racism produced by older Dutch White citizens in the context of the ZP campaign? Secondly: What role did media play in their meaning-making processes? As this research is rooted in a constructivist paradigm and aimed at gaining an in-depth understanding of individual meaning-making processes, it takes on a qualitative approach. Hence, fifteen semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with older Dutch White individuals between the ages of 65 and 94. These interviews were analysed through a combination of Thematic and Critical Discourse Analysis. The analysis uncovered three scopes through which these individuals produced reflexivity vis á vis racism amid the ‘Zwarte Piet’ debate: (1) an ever-changing society, (2) others, and (3) the ‘Self’. The first two scopes outline how reflexivity processes were enhanced and limited by external factors: hegemonic status and discourses in media and society at large and efforts by activism and media actors to fight those. The last scope addresses how individuals can put in the work to not only become aware of those influences but also how these were internalised and, consequently, how one can combat them. The implications of this research are that these influences and processes are made explicit and that it uncovers how these play out amid a decade-long public debate. Moreover, this thesis addresses how media can both challenge and enhance these processes, not only through discourse, but also by adding directly and indirectly to the personal experiences of Dutch White individuals.

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dr. (Delia) D. D. Dumitrica
Media, Culture & Society
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Maud van Roessel. (2022, June 27). To live in a world with(out) racism How older Dutch White people produce reflexivity vis á vis racism in the context of the anti ‘Zwarte Piet’ debate. Media, Culture & Society. Retrieved from