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Van Zee Receives Imagine Fund Award for Study Abroad Course in Amsterdam

Posted by Miles Taylor '13, Wood Lake on Monday, Jun. 24, 2013

Marynel Ryan Van Zee, associate professor of history, received an all-University Imagine Fund Award to prepare for a study abroad course in the Netherlands. The course, Virtue and Vice in Amsterdam: From the Golden Age to the Global Age, will be offered as an extended May session course in 2014 and will be co-taught by Van Zee and Troy Osborne, assistant professor of history at the University of Waterloo, Canada.

Based largely in Amsterdam, the course will focus on the relationship between economic prosperity, social cohesion, and Dutch national identity. Using the 17th century Golden Age of the Dutch Republic and the period following World War II as points of comparison, students will explore how economic prosperity and times of intensive growth in the Netherlands have affected systems of governance and membership in international communities.

Conversations in four-hundred-year-old cafes, boat and walking tours of the city, museum visits, and a bicycle trip will round out the Amsterdam experience. However, as the course is a study of Dutch national identity, students will also take day trips across the Netherlands. Included in the official course content is a visit to the Hague, in addition to several optional day trips to Haarlem, Utrecht, and the Hoge Veluwe National Park.

“I am interested in national identity more generally, and in the tension between exclusion and inclusion that is always inherent in the definition of such identities,” says Van Zee. “The example of the Netherlands is a particularly rich one, because the significance of toleration heightens that tension.”

A longstanding association exists between Dutch identity and the idea of toleration, which has grown from the acceptance of religious and intellectual diversity to include more recent respect for GLBT rights and other social movements, legalized prostitution, and decriminalization of the use of soft drugs. This “Dutch” virtue has had profound effects on the culture and politics of the Netherlands. Amsterdam is the ideal place to contemplate the origins and analyze the consequences of these practices of toleration.

The Imagine Fund Award supports a trip for course development on-site in Amsterdam as well as with the purchase of books and teaching materials for the course. The award allows Van Zee to build on the foundation laid during her research trip to Amsterdam last summer, which was supported by Morris’s International Programs Committee.

This project is supported by generous funding from the University of Minnesota’s Imagine Fund Awards.