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Immigrants' Artistic Practices in Amsterdam, 1970-2007: A Political Issue of Inclusion and Exclusion

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This article describes how the simple participation of migrant artists in the art scene in Amsterdam over the last three decades has turned into a political issue. Their claims for inclusion led to questioning the closed character of the Western art world. This critique of the closed nature of the Western art scene and of the exclusionary structures of Western aesthetic valuation has been articulated and dealt with on two analytically different, but empirically intertwined levels: cultural policy and the art institutes. Both the redefinition of the cultural policy and the reorganisation of the field of art itself have been accompanied by—sometimes passionate—public debates. The article takes the city of Amsterdam as the unit of analysis, as the city hosts a rich variety of ethno-cultural communities and is characterised by a large and flourishing cultural apparatus. Of course, the developments enacted in the city of Amsterdam are not unique. They are one particular articulation of dynamics occurring on different scales: global, national and regional. My analysis is restricted to the domain of high culture, and focuses on two subfields: the visual arts and theatre performances. For the purpose of this article, the field of high art is of special interest as it is surrounded by a complex set of—mostly implicit—rules and mechanisms that regulate entry. These mechanisms, which affect different groups unevenly, have become the subject of major critique.
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Keywords: Amsterdam; Cultural Policy; Diversity; Interculturalism; Performing Arts; Visual Arts

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2008

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