Accepted paper:

The secret of HEMA: everyday neo-nationalism in the Netherlands and its intertwinement with economy

Author:

Sophie Elpers (Meertens Institute, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

The paper focusses on cultural and economic strategies of the Dutch department store HEMA in order to construct and sell Dutchness, and on the interplay with the consumers’ everyday life. It reveals the highly commercialized dimensions of everyday neo-nationalism with its exclusionary implications.

Paper long abstract:

In the Netherlands a rediscovery of the national can be observed in all parts of life in the last two decades. The commercial world seems to be one of the powerful agents in this field. The paper focusses on the cultural and economic strategies of the famous department store HEMA in order to construct and sell Dutchness, and on the interplay with the consumer's everyday life. It reveals the highly commercialized dimensions of everyday neo-nationalism with its inclusionary and exclusionary implications. By e.g. extending the product range with articles related to Islamic culture HEMA tries to insert rituals and symbols of immigrant groups in an imaginary canon of Dutchness since several years. Therefore it is important that HEMA itself is recognized as 'typically Dutch' (the reason why a musical on 'Dutch' culture bears the name HEMA). But the question rises in how far this strategy of inclusion overrules earlier processes of 'othering' in the marketing strategies demonstrated by an independent exhibition project in 2007 called 'El HEMA'. Or does the new strategy just disguise 'othering' processes or even strengthen them? Based on anthropological fieldwork in the company and on interviews with consumers, the paper looks at both the negotiations about the national within HEMA and the effects of HEMA's chosen strategies on the everyday life of its consumers. The role of a desire to feel at home in the Netherlands by consuming (or rejecting) HEMA products and the role of HEMA in everyday nationalism will be analyzed.

panel P086
Cultural strategies and social conditions of neo-nationalisms in Europe