Three days of the West – What is Westernization?

Last week in the Netherlands we had, again, a debate on young asylum seekers. It was decided that a 14-year old Afghan girl and her family could remain in the Netherlands although their asylum request had been rejected. The girl, Sahar, lives in the Netherlands for more than 10 years now and is a pupil at a higher secondary school. One of the criteria that played a role in the recent decision to let them stay is that Sahar is ‘westernized’ over the years which leads politicians to the conclusion that she (as a girl) could get into trouble when she has to live in Afghanistan (there are indeed examples of that). The criterium of ‘Westernization’ is not defined however and not extended to boys or other girls from Afghanistan (let alone other countries) in a similar situation. The next video provides some information on this discussion:

What's Westernization? door NewsLook

Service oriented as this anthropologist is, I have decided to look into the matter of Westernization a little more closer in order to come up with a definition that includes the fact that we talk about women (gender), upper class (with regard to education) and style of democratic participation (given the way people have lobbyed for the girl or against her). Important is that the elements of the definition have to extend beyond the Netherlands but not exclude the Netherlands and that they have been rooted in Western societies for a long time. Now it happens that in the last three days we have seen three perfect examples of those Western traditions that could be the corner stones of this definition.

29 april: A very elegant burqa for women
William and Kate got married. Have you seen Kate’s dress? A beautiful elegant with a face covering veil that both hides as well as accentuates the beauty of this woman.
“A modern bride, in a modern dress but with a historical allusion” and also think about ‘Grace Kelly’s dress’.

30 April: Get drunk, act silly, get together: Queensday in the Netherlands
30 April is the day the Netherlands celebrates the birthday of queen Beatrix. The atmosphere is somewhat similar to when the Dutch national soccer team plays and can be described as temporary Orange Fever.

1 May: Traditional political participation: Jump right out of the line and revolt!
The celebration of 1 May is a perfect and very old example of political participation: demonstrations, blocking the streets, violence by police and protesters. Let’s have a look at one of the mobilization video of the German 1 May movement:

As such this idea of Westernization is more real than reality, in fact a re-make of reality. Have fun.

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