We started off our day meeting at nine in the morning in the courtyard. We were all a but tired and some of us were recovering from the trauma of an episode with burnt toast but we managed to make our way over to the Virtual Knowledge Studio.
VKS building
The Virtual Knowledge Studio (VKS) is an institute of social history that both serves as an archive of historical documents, (is houses original Marxist texts, propaganda leaflets, artifacts from the squatters movement like cloths and tools used by squatters, work from oppressed scholars, ect.) and as an institute of social research that, that helps researchers to develop new scholarly practices that “supports researchers in the humanities and social sciences…in the creation of new scholarly practices and in their reflection on e-research in relation to their fields”. E-research as I understand it when applied to the Humanities and social sciences focuses on the role of the internet and advanced communication technologies in human interaction and social movements.
When we arrived there, Clifford gave us a brief introduction to the topic of e-research and transitioned into his own research on the role of openness in the production of collaborative knowledge. This was done in an attempt to give us insight into the process of scholarly research, so that we might be better prepared to develop our own projects. What I found most helpful was seeing the attention that had been paid in defining all terms that might be problematic or ambiguous within the research focus. Clifford made a point in telling us to be mindful of the way in which we frame our question, and to never assume a causal relationship without having clear, measurable evidence.

Clifford’s research is focused on the disruptions that openness can create in collaboration, and how these disruptions bring to light the existing social practices as well as causing the emergence of new practices. Our program is functioning as a case study for his research, and the work that we do here, using our blogs and the research wiki to communicate our ideas, is a practice in using open collaborative communication to develop research.

After the presentation we transitioned into talking about our own projects, and the current state of our research questions since arriving in the Netherlands. The initial plan was to have a one on one meeting with Rob and Clifford, but because of time constraints we were forced to have a group discussion. While I was initially disappointed that we weren’t going to have a more focused examination of our work, I felt like seeing everyone’s process helped me reflect better on what I was doing, and how I presented my work. The best piece of advice that I took from our discussion is that we shouldn’t try to perfect and crystallize our research question before setting out to answer it because the process of our research, and our methodology will influence how we form and direct our question. Research is a recursive process, and so we need to be open to change and readily adaptable.

After this totally enlightening and inspiring meeting with our program coordinators, we left the VKS and moved onto the second part of our day in which we visited a Turkish mosque to learn something about the immigrant Muslims in the Netherlands.
Outside of Mosque
Arriving at the mosque we were treated to a traditional, I’m guessing Turkish, meal, and then showed into a community lounge area for coffee. While we waited in the lounge area playing banana grams and munching on yummy cookies (thanks to the small food mart located within the mosque) I couldn’t help but be surprised at how generous and accommodating everyone had been so far. I know a certain amount of the openness must be a result from the special relationship the UvA has with this mosque, none the less I was mindful that we were being allowed into the center of their community.

At two we headed to the prayer room where we were allowed to view 2:00 prayer. Being both secular and female I was a little uncomfortable with the experience and couldn’t help but wonder why I was being allowed in, especially when a Muslim women would not have been allowed to be in the same position.
Prayer Room
After prayer we were allowed to have a discussion with the Imam of the mosque about the position of immigrants in Dutch society. He explained that the mosque we were in was affiliated with a larger organization called Milli Görüs that aims to help aid integration of Turkish immigrants and other Muslims in the Netherlands and around Europe. As an organization that has over 30,000 members in Europe Milli Görüs helps in everyday practicalities of Muslim life, including Islamic religious instruction, and naturalization issues. Its body of lawyers also helps defend any possible issues of discrimination in the workplace.

We were allowed to ask questions and at the end of the discussion were put into the awkward position of explaining, “what we first think of when we think about Islam”. While I believe that everyone answered honestly I know few if not all of us censored our answers for the imam. To be honest I don’t think those types of questions are entirely fair, because while many thoughts might occur to me when I think of Islam, like controversy, violence, passion, devotion, radicalism, I absolutely don’t believe that any one of those things can accurately describe the entire impression I have of Islam. They’re only pieces to a much larger story. And so when forced to answer such a question we’re forced to come up with a far more calculated answer that the nature of the question requires and in a sense answer falsely in order not to impolite or offend. What I wish we would have done, myself included, is push at some of those less comfortable issues, like the fact that us girls were allowed to sit in on a prayer service, while a Muslim women would be required to stay behind clouded glass.

After our meeting with the Imam we headed to a café to have a further discussion with Mirjam. She explained a little about the history of immigration from turkey and morocco as well as talked about some of the problems of immigration in the present, such as Moroccan men marrying women from Morocco and making it harder for new generations to learn Dutch culture and language at home.

After coffee break number two we all went our separate ways, left to reflect on our experience and what small understanding we had been given into the complexity and tension of the role of immigration in the Netherlands.

This is until we met once again to enjoy our first group dinner! We went to the lovely Bloem eten & drinken where we were served a totally fabulous three-course meal. I felt like we did a great job keeping our composure in a nice restaurant. Though we all got a little rowdy after the Jenever shots were passed out. (Some mention was made of not defecating oneself in conjunction with sucking on plutonium) It was fun night, and a really satisfying end to a long, long day.
puff pastry starter (finally some tasty vegetarian options!)

Hey guys! I wanted to ket everyone know that I added a link to a map I created of some cafes and confectionary shops around amsterdam to the link library. I hope it turns out to be helpful in satisfying your caffeine and sugar fixes while in Amsterdam.

Here’s the link if you need it


Final Assignment

Integration of Muslim immigrants into Dutch society has been a key issue for the Dutch government ever since the 1960’s and 1970’s, when a need for labor in the Netherlands caused an influx of about 22,000 Moroccan immigrants.[1] (Turkish immigrants were in small numbers at this time, but now constitute about 38% of the Muslim population)[2] However in the past ten years there has been an increase in tension among the Native Dutch and Muslim immigrants due in large part to attacks carried out by Islamic extremists. The attacks of September 11th in 2001, and the murder of a Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in 2004 being some of the more notable incidents.

A poll taken by Motivaction / GPD
in 2006 revealed that 756 out of the 1200 Dutch adults surveyed (63%) believed Islam to be incompatible with modern European life. [3] This view is further supported by the leftist Labor Party, which is calling for an end to the “failed model of Dutch tolerance.” They contend that past tensions between immigrants and the native Dutch have arisen from the unwillingness of immigrants to shed the customs of their native country and adopt a more Dutch lifestyle. Lilianne Ploumen, the Labor’s chairperson, says, “Integration calls on the greatest effort from the new Dutch. Let go of where you come from; choose the Netherlands unconditionally.” The position of the Labor Party is stern; a callous tone justified by necessity. The party, as a reflection of popular demand, outwardly professes a strong message to its newest countrymen: Immigrants must “take responsibility for this country” and “the grip of the homeland has to disappear” in order for tensions to be resolved.[4]

Our group is interested in the lifestyles, social connections and barriers between Dutch nationals (defined as those citizens who have Dutch heritage or, in the case of 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants, have assimilated into the Dutch culture, economy, customs and traditions, and national fabric) and recent Muslim immigrants. Though our overarching research question intends to investigate the borders between the Dutch and Muslim immigrants, the connections that do exist should not be overlooked. We will need to examine cultural areas which do not have borders (e.g. the national soccer team at this summer’s World Cup) to get a more holistic view of the issue. The crux of our inquiry, it must be stressed, will be the disparities and barriers between groups. As per example, the anti-parallel trends of the Netherlands becoming less Christian and more Muslim will be an extremely important notion to observe and analyze. Religion is one of the few things that touches every aspect of society, and so the associations between Muslims and the Dutch (historically Christian) will factor heavily in the scope of our analysis.

In summation, we are excited to have the opportunity to propose and carry out a social science investigation into the condition of Muslim immigrants’ relations to the more conventional, accustomed Dutch population. Our research will depend on finding patterns and paradigms amongst the individuals and groups that we observe. Like other major international cities, Amsterdam has a large immigrant population–as it has for centuries–so it is incorrect to assume that blonde and pasty designates a Dutch person, and brown and bearded means an immigrant. The Netherlands’ exploratory and global trading history has made Amsterdam a melting pot–this being so, we must explore and scrutinize with a carefully honed cultural acumen. Our research will require challenging questions, open-mindedness, and movement through the city, from mosques to YMCAs to schools to bars. If all goes as expected, we might even have to walk some miles in immigrants’ shoes. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Research Questions:

Group Research Question:
What are the covert and overt borders that currently exist between Muslim immigrants and the native Dutch people, and how do these borders affect their integration into Dutch society?

Derek’s Research Question:
“Unemployment among Moroccan and Turkish communities in the Netherlands is higher than the national average: Compared to a 9% unemployment rate of native Dutch, 27% of Moroccans and 21% of Turks are unemployed (SCP, 2006)” [6]

Why are unemployment rates significantly higher for Muslim immigrants than for native Dutch peoples? How does this affect their ability to integrate into Dutch society?

John’s Research Question:
Why are the living conditions for Muslim immigrants substantially different (meaning: worse) than other minority groups in Amsterdam, especially considering the country’s history of assimilating immigrants and the city’s notoriety for tolerance? And what are political and cultural leaders doing to affect prejudices and theological stigmas on both sides of the cultural wall?

Sabra’s Research Question:
According to an annual integration report taken in 2005 The education level among Turkish and Moroccan immigrants (making up the highest percentage of Muslims in the Netherlands) were lower than those among the Native Dutch students.In the final years of primary education for the level of linguistic capabilities the Turkish students were 2.5 years behind and Moroccan students were 2 years behind. In Mathematics both groups were ½ year behind. [5]

Why are the education rates of Muslim immigrants lower than that of the native Dutch? How does this affect their ability to integrate into Dutch society?

Methods Strategy:

In constructing an accurate social representation that answers our research question, we plan to use the strategies described by Ragin, and conduct a dialogue between our ideas and collected evidence. We hope to collect much of our evidence through qualitative field research in Amsterdam, and in the upcoming weeks we will work to clarify our ideas through internet research in order to provide our field research with further context and direction. Once we have collected our evidence, we will work to analyze and synthesize this evidence in order to construct a coherent image that is representative of our observations. Finally, we hope to use our ideas and synthesized evidence to construct an accurate representation of Muslim immigrant life within Dutch society in regards to our research question.

In collecting evidence, we plan to use a combination of interviews and social observation.
We plan to interview both Muslim immigrants and native Dutch people, in order to capture an in-depth look at their relevant thoughts and opinions. As this could be a sensitive issue for our interviewees, we will make sure that we approach them with openness and academic professionalism. We will also interview persons who work at establishments that provide services for Muslim immigrants and establishments that concern relations between Muslim immigrants and the native Dutch population. Through an analysis of our interviewee evidence, we hope to attain a greater understanding of the borders that exist between these two groups. Beyond interviews, we will make general social observations of these two peoples, so that we can obtain evidence that is not tainted by our own interactions with the subjects (we are foreigners after all).

Field Research Schedule:

Our current plan is to spend the first two weeks interviewing and observing and the remaining time constructing our answers to our research questions.

We’ll spend most of our time in Overtoomse Veld when in Amsterdam, as it is the neighborhood with the highest Moroccan and Turk population, with a few of the days spent observing surrounding neighborhoods. This is to get a good feel of how the immigrant neighborhood varies, if at all, form Amsterdam’s other neighborhoods. For the first few days, we want to make surface observations about living conditions, the state of public or private housing, neighborhood interactions, what communal spaces are available and how are they used, ect. Once we’ve completed this first step we’ll start to engage some of the people living in both the Overtoomse Veld, and again surrounding neighborhoods in discussion about the current state of immigrants in the Netherlands.

In the second week we would like to start discussion with some local officials that deal directly with the separate areas of our interests. We’ll be working over the next few weeks to try and set up appointments to possibly talk to someone on the education council about immigrant education, and members of the the Dutch Equal Treatment Commission about possible discrimination against immigrant workers, and students. We will also attempt to set up an appointment with the Contact Body for Muslims and Government (CMO), an organization that represents 80% of the Muslims in the Netherlands.

The final weeks as stated above will be dedicated to pulling our research together, working on our final presentations, and answering our research questions.

[1] Jurgens, Fleur (2007-03-28) (in Dutch), De vier mythen van de Marokkaanse onderklasse, de Volkskrant

[2] van Herten, Marieke (2007-10-25), More than 850 thousand Muslims in the Netherlands, Statistics Netherlands

[3] “Islam Incompatible with Europe, Say Dutch” Angus Ried Global Monitor, http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/view/12143 (accessed Jun 5, 2010).

[4] Vinocur, John “From the left, a call to end the current Dutch notion of tolerance” New York Times,http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/29/world/europe/29iht-politicus.3.18978881.html (accessed Jun 5, 2010).

[5] SCP (2005) Jaarrapport Integratie (Integration Annual Report). The Hague: Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau.

[6] Staff Writer, . “Islam in Netherlands.” Euro-Islam: News and Analysis on Islam in Europe and the Uniter States. Euro-Islam.info, 2010. Web. 8 Jun 2010.

In what ways does the education of muslim immigrants effect their perceptions of themselves and their standing within the community of the netherlands?

More refined than it was, but I have a lot of work to do. =P

For my research in Amsterdam, I’m interested in investigating the physical and psychological borders that separate the native Dutch and the immigrant Muslim population. So for the first part of the assignment I wanted to find an area in Seattle that was home to a foreign immigrant population. I chose to explore the International District (I.D.) knowing it was historically the area that Chinese, Japanese, and other East/South East Asian’s came to live in Seattle. I wanted to find out how it might function as a distinct neighborhood of the larger city, and, if it still housed a large percentage of Asian descendants, what draw the area might still hold for them now, over a hundred years since the first immigrants settled here.
While I’ve been to the I.D. before I’ve never gone on a focused assignment, and it was interesting for me to observe the neighborhood in a more analytical way. What stood out to me the most was the touristy aspect of the area. There were so many bakeries and restaurants that I could pass down any one street and there would be at least three different places to eat. All of the restaurants offered some vain of Asian cuisine, and most, like the popular Chine Gate below, had over-the-top, almost gaudy Chinese-inspired decor.

What surprised me so much about this was how much effort was spent to keep the district “Chinesey”. The picture below really highlights the styling of the area as compared to the more modern, and western, infrastructure of the rest of the downtown area.

What I found was that some of the more exaggerated areas of the I.D. were frequented by people who didn’t seem to really live there. Many had shopping bags from some of the larger more well known businesses, and seemed to be in a rush to get somewhere else.
But when I travelled into some of the quieter parts of the neighborhood, where some of the smaller, less glamorized food markets and medicinal herb shops were, I found more local residents. They were less rushed, and sporting more comfortable clothing, as one would wear when making a quick trip to the corner market for that night’s food.

Taking a trip inside one of the markets I saw that many of the foods would not be available in a traditional western style grocery, and that even something as simple as how they sold yams, was evocative of a certain Asian style. While I can imagine many of you reading this wouldn’t be surprised about this, I found it more intriguing that the distinctness of the I.D. was present even down to a local level.
This got me thinking about why a majority of Asian descendants would still be in residence here, more than one hundred years after the first immigrants settled. I think part of the answer to my question comes from the fact that despite the more campy touristy areas, some of the I.D. still retains a hint of its original heritage. What I get from this is that it allows people who come from an Asian background to connect with a part of themselves that is a both familiar and distinct about their identity. It gives people a chance to keep and understand a part of what was lost when they left their home country, and what makes their lineage distinct. And so while I believe that most immigrants cluster into a single area when settling in a foreign country for a sense of safety and familiarity, it might be that the reason why they stay there is to not forget what it was that they left behind.

What was interesting to me when I began my walk, was the ease with which I could find my way around. In a place, where for all intents and purposes, I hadn’t really been before. Because I’ve spent nearly half of my live navigating through pages on the internet, I had a level of intuition about how certain sites (In this case weblogs) should be set up: Where blocks of text were placed in relation to visual elements, like photos, or interactive elements, like a comments page, on a blog. The order and continuity that conventions provide made it easy to access the information available on each page, because I knew where to look to find it.

Not all blogs I visited, however, fallowed a conventionally decided order. I found one that, instead of spreading each section out evenly across the window, it had everything crammed into a narrow column on the left. The unfilled space was filled with a red tiled pattern that, because it fills the majority of the window, drew my focus away from the actual material of the blog. There was another, that was filled with nothing but photos of various artist’s work. Text was meagerly present, if at all, and none of it helped to elucidate the meaning or reason of their placement. This was extremely frustrating for me, and I actually started to feel queasy after a few minutes of looking through. It was over all too noisy and aimless for me to find any sense in it, or be able to focus on any one thing long enough to understand it.

It seemed to me that the blogs that were the most successful in grabbing and keeping my attention, were those that fallowed a generally standard order, but had enough variation between pictures and text to be visually as well as intellectually stimulating.

This got me thinking about the reason conventions exist, especially in our constructed environment. They help us to establish an understanding of how the space is, or should, function within a social group.  This means that when we visit a place we’ve never been to before, like a state park, we can more or less navigate it and understand its patters and build order in reference to other places we’ve been.  In this way conventions can actually empower rather than inhibit us in our interaction with spaces.

This leads me to the blog that I settled on. (here) I was initially attracted by the order of the page, and the distinct, perhaps conventionally, placed sections. It was a welcome relief after the noise and confusion of the more “artsy” blogs I had visited. Because I felt comfortable walking around it, I had an easier time absorbing myself in the material parts of the page. Ironically, the majority of the posts dealt with the bar dealt with breaking down socially constructed barriers, that in many ways inhibit our true or natural needs and behaviors.

This is where I made the connection to play in my exploration. When boundaries or conventions are challenged, they key us in to aspects of our true nature, which we might have become less sensitive to. I think its only because we have established boundaries that we can make a statement by challenging them.

While this isn’t exactly reminiscent of  the famous doors of Dublin, the spirit of it I think is similar. What’s so remarkable about Dublin’s front doors is that each one is its own work of art in that it varies, if only slightly, from the doors surrounding it. This makes each person’s door have its own character, and makes the view of the city considerably more interesting to look at. That’s what I think is going on in this photo. The balconies are varied enough in color and size to make it so that the side of the building isn’t one uniform block, and it has the ability to catch the interest of those who pass by. I’d like to know who it was who designed this building, and their intentions being such a unique design. I would guess that this is built in a more modern part of the city, and in an area where the young in the city collect. Only because the colors used scream energy and vibrancy and I can’t imagine it being appealing to an older person who might enjoy more subtle beauty.  

Because, if you can, why not sit outside on a beanbag chair? Really, this is totally awesome.  It seems like a considerable amount of thought went into the set up. The pairing of bags together and placement of a handy beverage table between them suggest to me that this was part of an intentional plan to create a communal space outside; on bean bag chairs. Maybe this is more astounding to me than it should be, but it’s something I’ve never actually seen done in the states. The most I’ve seen for a seating area outside is a line of wooden or wrought iron benches scattered about in parks and college campuses. Unsurprisingly this isn’t conducive to people wanting to leave the comfort of their lazy boys inside and sit outside to breathe some unfiltered air. What the beanbag does is it makes it preferable to be outside and hang out in an open area.  

What I want to know is if this isn’t part of larger trend in the Netherlands to shape outside areas into communal forums. It would suggest a different set of priorities than a culture that spends most of its time surrounded by concrete walls, and stuck in 6×6 foot cubicles.