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Performing Identities on a Dutch River Dike: National Identity and Diverging Lifestyles


  • Kees Terlouw

    1. Utrecht University
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    • Kees Terlouw is assistant professor in the Department of Human Geography and Planning at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, where he teaches political, cultural, and regional geography. His research focuses on the changing forms of regional identity. His research primarily focuses on the emergence of new forms of regional identities. He also studies how new and more fluid forms of regional identities are linked to each other and layered across different scales. Translocalism in identities and regional development is also a topic in his publications. He has also extensively published on the relation between the world-system and regional development.


The creation of a national identity shared by the whole population becomes increasingly difficult in individualizing and globalizing national societies. The national population fragments into many lifestyle groups with very different social and cultural orientations. The enactment of these different lifestyle identities during leisure activities accentuates these differences. However, these different identities are sometimes performed on the same spatial stage. The main part of this article analyses the use of the dike along the river Linge, a part the Rhine estuary, which, lined with apple trees, cuts through an iconic Dutch river landscape with polders, old villages and meadows with quietly grazing cattle. Especially during the weekends, it is a stage crowded by walkers, cyclists, classic car drivers, and motorcyclists. The importance attached to this river dike is linked to a shared traditional form of Dutch collective national identity. The different uses of the river dike are based to the diverging values on which the different lifestyles are based. This results in conflicts over the use of and access to the dike. The role of the state in regulating these conflicts results in a more limited form of national identity.