Tijdschrift voor Herstelrecht


Erkenning van het koloniale verleden onder Nederlanders en de bereidheid tot herstel

De rol van identificatie met Nederlanders

Trefwoorden National identification, Dutch colonial past, Recognition, feelings of guilt
Auteurs Sven Zebel

Sven Zebel
Sven Zebel is universitair hoofddocent aan de vakgroep Psychologie van Conflict, Risico en Veiligheid van de Universiteit Twente.
  • Samenvatting

      It can be argued that for a widely shared way of handling and doing justice to the Dutch colonial past and the harm it has caused, not only (representatives of) Dutch institutions, but also the Dutch population should show greater accountability for this history. In this article, the author focus on the psychological phenomenon of identification with the own group (here the Dutch national group), and how this impacts current group members’ acknowledgment of past wrongdoings. In particular, and largely based on studies conducted for his dissertation, as well as more recent work, he elaborate on the influence group identification can have on feelings of guilt for the group’s harm doing during the colonial past, and how such feelings of guilt can motivate current group members to support restorative actions such as apologies and increasing awareness in the Netherlands for the negative colonial past. The research discussed in this article firstly shows that on average, current Dutch people do not tend to express strong feelings of guilt for their nation’s colonial history. That said, there are subgroups of Dutch people who may report stronger feelings of guilt, depending on their degree of group identification. The author argues and substantiates based on the studies conducted that a high group identification is unlikely to predict strong feelings of guilt, because people high in identification are more motivated to maintain and protect their positive view of their own group – which forms an important part of their identity. They therefore employ defensive strategies to downplay the historical misdeeds for current Dutch people. Perhaps counterintuitively then, those who are less invested in the own group and do not identify as strongly (‘lower identifiers’), are most likely to express strong feelings of guilt for the colonial misdeeds and support restorative actions also more. The author concludes this article by discussing studies that indicate under which circumstances higher identifiers may also come to feel strong feelings of guilt and associated restorative intentions – the key ingredient of such circumstances is, he argues, that it provides higher identifiers the opportunity to show their group’s strong morality when expressing guilt. Finally, he relativizes the beneficial contribution feelings of guilt can have for group relations: it may contribute to reparation of colonial harm doing, but other studies have indicated that this emotion is less fit to motivate people to combat structural and ongoing inequality between groups with a shared colonial past.

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