Politics of citizenship and language: “Allochtoon” becomes “bicultural”
The Dutch government seems to have adopted a new terminology for ethnic minorities in the Netherlands. The term “bicultural” is now used in official communication rather than “allochtoon” for people of non-Dutch (or rather non-white) ethnicities. In February, the organisation Innovation for Integration will start a media campaign to promote the term.
The word bicultural is a positive counterpart for the word allochtoon,” Yesim Candam, the Turkish founder of IVI, said last year. “We used to say ‘guest labourer’, ‘new Dutch’ or ‘allochtoon’. ‘Bicultural’ is the first term that expresses the fact that two cultures are more than one!”
The term “allochtoon” has become widely used in the Netherlands for people of non-Dutch descent. In popular use, the term is only applied to non-whites, such as people with Turkish or Moroccan ancestry. The Dutch bureau of statistics makes a differentiation between “western” and “non-western” allochtoons in their census categories. While the state agency refers to “allochtoons” only to first- and second-generation immigrants, in everyday usage all non-white people are seen as “allochtoon”.
Historian Ian Buruma described the term “allochtoon” as “an ugly, and relatively new, bureaucratic term for people of alien, but more specifially non-European, origin”. It’s an example of how citizenship in Europe is often defined racially. Like in most European countries, citizenship law in the Netherlands is based on the “jus sanguinis” principle (literally: right of blood”). It confers citizenship rights based on the belonging to the national community of the Dutch, whatever that might look like.
The introduction of the term “biculturalism” is another step toward recognising that citizenship should be based on political principles rather than ethnic and racial fault lines.
Source: Crossroads Magazine