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Profound Coziness: Affective Citizenship and the Failure to Enact Community in a Dutch Urban Neighborhood



Research has shown that the last two decades has seen the rise of voluntarism and more particular a reframing and re-enactment of the ideal-type citizen as a moral subject of responsible communities. In this chapter I ask how citizens are enacted by policy practitioners through different policy practices. Drawing on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in a deprived urban neighborhood, I analyse the policy practices of neighborhood gatherings in an Amsterdam neighborhood that are part of a community participation programme called Neighborhood Circle. Through these gatherings policy practitioners try to stimulate and encourage residents to perform voluntary tasks in the neighborhood. I will argue that in these meetings policy practitioners arouse ‘profound coziness’: a sphere animated by fellow feeling and imagine residents to be activated by the capacity to feel and act upon these feelings, rather than the capacity to think and deliberate rationally. Through these practices different ‘citizens’ emerge. On the one hand the ‘respected citizen’ embodied by (post)migrant women who feel proud to finally be able to participate and recognized by policy practitioners. On the other hand the ‘resentful citizen’ embodied by autochthonous volunteers who feel unrecognized by practitioners and feel publicly displaced by (post)migrant women. I show that the ideal-type citizen that is enacted by policy practitioners singles out other expressions of citizenship, leaving some volunteers in the neighborhood to feel displaced unable to act and a sense of fellow feeling and community far away.
Profound Coziness: Affective Citizenship and the Failure to en-
act Community in a Dutch Urban Neighborhood
Mandy de Wilde
1. Introduction
It is a late summer evening in the neighborhood of Slotermeer on the outskirts
of Amsterdam. On a piece of lawn next to a small community center, a white party
tent and a barbecue reveal that something is about to happen here tonight. In the
distance, the bell of tram 13 rings as it makes its daily way over the main thor-
oughfare in the neighborhood. Named after a former mayor of Amsterdam, the
long lane reaches out to the traffic “ring” that separates suburban Slotermeer from
the inner city districts of Amsterdam. However, the inner city of Amsterdam is not
the destination of most residents tonight. They are gathering in the community
center, called “Our House,” to attend a gathering concerning their own neighbor-
As I arrive, I see the current “neighborhood mayors” Dirk, Klaas and Jan1
standing outside the entrance of the community center. I have met them several
times before when attending public meetings in Slotermeer. They are usually in-
clined to take the floor, often at the cost of other, less articulate citizens, such as
(post)migrants and women. Tonight, however, they do not perform their role as
neighborhood mayors. Close to the entrance of the community center, they lean
against the wall in a demonstrative manner. They chat with one another and with
some of the residents entering the building, while ignoring others. They will re-
main outside even after tonight’s collective gathering has begun.
One of the people that do enter is Sander, the inspired policy practitioner, who,
together with a couple of colleagues, is responsible for the organization of these
gatherings. He is hopeful and excited about this evening, as tonight will see the in-
stallation of the Neighborhood Circle as part of a community building-policy pro-
gram. He sees the network as his “baby”: for over three months now, he has been
trying to inspire and get residents excited about his “dreams” for the neighbor-
Sounds of laughter, music and buzz fill up the community center. In the small
hall, there are no grey office tables, paper stacks, interruption microphones or al-
dermen behind lecterns, but colorful tablecloths, yellow flowers, balloons, waxing
lights, and Sander and his colleagues mingling, laughing and chit-chatting with
residents. There is a cozy, informal atmosphere. Sander starts the gathering with a
rousing speech, telling residents how “touched” he is to see the enthusiasm among
people in the neighborhood and that it is of upmost importance to invest this same
1 The name of the community participation-program is an invented name. Also, the names used in this
chapter are not the real names of the respondents in order to protect their privacy.
enthusiasm and energy within Neighbourhood Circle Tonight offers a chance to
network, to get to know each other and to offer room for “spontaneous and imag i-
native encounters” during the festive barbecue.
At the festive closure of the evening, Sander offers those volunteers who have
already helped to give life to Neighborhood Circle a gift: a pink “Arabic-inspired
teapot” that a Dutch warehouse introduced to its collection during the Eid-al-Fitr,
the festivities marking the end of the Islamic Ramadan. The teapot symbolizes the
message that Neighborhood Circle tries to convey: out of different cultures, some-
thing new and beautiful can be constructed. Everybody applauds and loud music
coming out of the stereo takes over the hall. It is time for the “after-meeting,” al-
ready announced on the invitation. Some women push the chairs away and start to
dance on world music. Noortje and Rinda, two older ladies and long-time volun-
teers, who had critically fired questions at Sander and his colleagues during the
meeting, look at the scene with a disapproving look. Yet, Ferda, a young mother
and fresh volunteer, mentions that she thinks it is a “cozy evening” and enjoys
herself. Together with her friend Yildiz, she rhythmically starts to move to the
sound of the music. There is laughter, singing and shouts and the volume of the
music is turned up a bit more.
Noortje and Rinda leave. It has started to rain outside and tram 13 still makes
its way through the neighborhood. Neighborhood mayors Dirk, Klaas and Jan
have left. When I take my bike and leave as well, I think about something that
Sander shared with me earlier on, when I asked him if he was satisfied with the
way the evening was turning out:
“It is a cozy way of coming together, but I do try to give some pro-
fundity to the coziness. A sort of profundity at least.”
“Coziness.” A word I have heard many times from the mouth of Sander, his
colleagues, but also from residents. But what is “profound coziness”? In this chap-
ter, I will show that, in Slotermeer, “affective citizenship” (Fortier 2010; De Wilde
2013) is brought into being through creating a warm sense of sociability during
collective gatherings. An ethnographic view of these gatherings offers an insight
in the dynamics of affective citizenship and how it affects residents and social re-
lations in the neighborhood. I will show how this government strategy has intend-
ed, but also unintended consequences. Where some residents feel included in the
coziness, others feel excluded.
The reinvention of a localized sense of community the cozy atmosphere de-
scribed above is not a local phenomenon. It has been part of urban governance
approaches in deprived urban neighborhoods in Western Europe, such as the Unit-
ed Kingdom (see Lawles et al. 2010; MacLeavy 2009; Forrest and Kearns 2001),
Spain (see Pares et al. 2012), Germany (see Haus and Klausen 2011) and the
Netherlands (see Van Kempen and Bolt 2009; De Wilde et al. 2014). In this chap-
ter, I develop an understanding of affective citizenship, both as a governmental
strategy and as a subject-position enacted by some citizens (but not by others).
The focus is on how the affective subject is understood, addressed and utilized as
a resource in a community participation-program. I will argue that Neighborhood
Circle can be seen as governmental technology aimed at creating affective rela-
tions between residents. I analyze how and which citizen subject-positions emerge
from it. The concluding section argues that affective citizenship recognizes some
emotions, and public conduct arising from it, more than others. In doing so, it dis-
regards certain enactments of community, excludes a certain type of citizenship
from the public domain and reinforces boundaries between residents.
2. Governing Through Emotions
Research has shown that the last two decades has seen a shift of responsibilities
from governments to citizens and an activation of citizens on many levels such as
health care, social assistance, employment and the neighborhood in Western Eu-
ropean welfare states (Clarke and Newman, 1997; Newman 2005; Newman and
Clarke 2009; Newman and Tonkens 2011)). One outcome of this process has been
the rise of voluntarism and, more particular, a reframing of the citizen as moral
subject of responsible communities. Nowadays, a good citizen is a “communitari-
an citizen” (Etzioni 1998; Putnam 2000, 2004): a citizen who feels a sense of be-
longing and loyalty to her community, identifies with its members and actively
engages with and contributes to its wellbeing.
The development of activation policies are the result of various developments:
among others, a rise of neoliberal policy-making, the declining capacities of wel-
fare states and a growing distance between citizens and their governments. Within
the context of urban governance and the management of social issues in deprived
urban neighborhoods, local governments seek to engage and utilize the local
community as answer and antidote to the poor cohesive state of these local com-
munities (Uitermark 2014; Bull and Jones 2006; Lowndes and Wilson 2001;
Maloney et al. 2000). A state that is mainly due to the ongoing transformations in
Western European urban neighborhoods as a result of macro processes such as
globalization and immigration. Yet, as communities are considered important
tools in all kinds of governmental plans, the character of these plans simultaneous-
ly suggests communities are frail constructs, or even absent entities. It is possible,
though, to imagine a neighborhood as a community and turn it into “a productive
myth” (Uitermark 2014, p. 10; Anderson 1991) if enough people identify with and
participate in it. This explains why local governments try to build communities,
and have residents identify, actively engage and participate in them such as
Neighborhood Circle in Slotermeer.
Governmentality-inspired scholars have critically intervened in the contempo-
rary debate on communitarian citizenship and the way community involvement
has become regarded as best practice in policy programs. They argue that the
community has become a highly instrumental tool wielded by national and local
governments (Marinetto 2003). Rose (1999, p. 176) calls this “government
through community” and talks about a politics of subjectification as governments
try to activate people by acting upon their personal commitments, social relations
and individual responsibilities to a community. This is done through carefully ad-
dressing, crafting and utilizing individuals as subjects in practices of subjectifica-
tion. Those practices encourage and provoke “certain ways of conduct which in-
crease the health, wealth and happiness” (Isin 2004, p. 220) of both people and the
community they are thought to belong to.
Furthermore, Rose argues that, with this communitarian turn, practices of sub-
jectification have become increasingly more affective as a community can be seen
as “a moral field” and “a space of emotional relationships through which individ-
ual identities are constructed through their bonds to micro-cultures of values and
meanings” (Rose 1999, p. 172 emphasis in original). This raises the question how
governments address people as individuals with emotional bonds of affinity to
other people and how they try to influence them to assemble these bonds in a new
way. In this chapter, I will show how governments utilize and mobilize emotions
as a productive force for community involvement through the governmental tech-
nique of “affective citizenship.”
The term “affective citizenship” has been used in other studies to reveal how
the governmental recognition and encouragement of emotions and intimate rela-
tionships have long been part of the very way in which citizenship itself is con-
structed. Mookherjee (2005) analyzes the former within the sphere of national cit-
izenship and shows how affection and loyalty are used as emotional brick stones
in a process of nation building. As national governments acknowledge citizens and
ask them to be compassionate and empathetic to others in the other collectivities,
they interpellate certain emotions. Focusing on issues of gender, sexuality, reli-
gion and race, Johnson (2010, p. 495) uses the concept to analyze which intimate
relationships between citizens in their everyday, private life are recognized by
governments, how they are stimulated to feel about others and themselves in the
public sphere and how this culminates to a “politics of affect” that influences who
receives full citizenship rights. Fortier (2010, p. 17) has used the term to provide a
detailed analysis of how British government strategies for fostering community
cohesion involve forms of “governing through affect” and attempt to influence cit-
izens’ feelings about the local community they live in. She shows how strategies
deployed in view of achieving community cohesion operate through the cultiva-
tion of a certain register of emotions that defines good citizenship (see also Fortier
Anthropologist Andrea Muehlebach (2012, p. 44) has specified this process by
showing how exactly emotions are utilized and mobilized as a productive force in
volunteerism and activation policies. She shows how politicians and policy practi-
tioners in the Northern-Italian welfare state draw upon an “affective register” of
pride, empathy and compassion in order to make citizens care for others in their
community and act upon those feelings by becoming involved in voluntary activi-
ties. All these studies show how governments acknowledge, influence and utilize
citizens’ emotions and the affective relations through which citizen identities are
I use the term affective citizenship in relation to enacting community and see it
as twofold. It refers to the way governments address citizens as an affective sub-
ject: as individuals with emotional bonds of affinity to other people and how they
try to influence citizens to assemble these bonds in a new way. At the same time,
affective citizenship refers to an affective subject-position itself: that is, a relation-
al state of being that arises from and consists of all sorts of emotions such as
compassion, affection, pride, hope, fear, anger etcetera. From this state of being,
people act out their citizenship duties by forging affective relations through mean-
ingful interactions with others. These interactions and relations enact community.
3. Methods: Policy Analysis and Ethnographic Fieldwork
This paper is based on data gathered in an ethnographic project in which I par-
ticipated in a diverse range of practices of a community participation-program in
Slotermeer. To allow for a critical analysis of this program, the social policy con-
text in which it took place and the dynamics it entailed, I will analyze two catego-
ries of empirical material gathered over a period of two years.
First, I made use of policy documents and communication material from the lo-
cal government of Amsterdam, the district government of Amsterdam New-West,
interviews with policy practitioners and administrators working in the neighbor-
hood and field notes from neighborhood meetings. An analysis of this material al-
lows for an examination of the way the district government framed the ongoing
neighborhood regeneration of Slotermeer and the community participation-
campaign. Second, I made use of research material from participant observation in
the field. The empirical data draws from field notes taken during voluntary activi-
ties, and interviews, conversations and email correspondence with volunteers. An
analysis of this material allows for a critical evaluation of how the idea of “com-
munity” is framed in discourse and enacted in (policy) practice.
4. A Community Participation-Program in Slotermeer
Slotermeer, a neighborhood part of the suburban district of Amsterdam New-
West, meets the typical image of a deprived urban neighborhood as an arena were
social problems are concentrated. Its population is impoverished e.g. high levels
of unemployment and lagging emancipation it deals with deteriorating public
space and faces petty crime and other safety issues. Furthermore, Slotermeer is a
multi-ethnic neighborhood. In 2010, 59 percent of residents in Slotermeer were
qualified as “non-Western migrants,” of which most were of Turkish, Moroccan
and Surinamese decent.2 In Dutch public and political debate, neighborhoods such
2 Source: Gemeente Amsterdam, Dienst Onderzoek + Statistiek. 2010. Staat van de wijk 3.
as Slotermeer are regarded as stages where the discontents of Dutch multicultural
society are most manifest (Duyvendak 2011; Uitermark and Duyvendak 2008):
there are tense ethnic relations and a growing unease among autochthonous resi-
dents. Due to these social problems, Slotermeer has been at the forefront of both
national and local policy interventionism.
In 2007, the district administration implemented a “bottom-up renewal strate-
gy,” called Neighborhood Management. This management-approach aimed at
“improving the general image,” “enhancing social cohesion” and working upon
the “community wide-functions” of Slotermeer (POSEIDON 2006, p. 10).3 To do
so, the district government developed a community participation-program that
would build upon the “self-organizing potential of the local community,” address-
ing it as Neighborhood Circle.
The simple definition of Neighborhood Circle given in policy documents quali-
fied it as “a structural network where (public) organizations, the urban district civ-
il service and local residents work together on the development of the communi-
ty.” Through Neighborhood Circle, residents are going to be able to organize all
kinds of voluntary activities in the neighborhood such as coffee mornings, handi-
craft workshops and other activities in the community center, a street party or a
neighborhood festival. It was supported by the district government with a budget,
an office space and other organizational support. However, in practice, the Neigh-
borhood Circle turned out to be much more than a simple network. The policy
techniques used to develop the Neighborhood Circle reveal the amount of work
that had to be done in the process.
First, although Slotermeer met the typical image of a deprived urban neighbor-
hood, the Neighborhood Circle -campaign hardly ever mentioned neighborhood
problems, but instead invited residents to share their “wishes” and “dreams” for
Slotermeer. In district newspapers, visual material and other communication mate-
rial evoked an image of Slotermeer as a beautiful, harmonious place in which resi-
dents could count on and would take care of each other. The slogans “together
we can do more, TOGETHERsloterMORE!”4 logos and images that adjoined
the campaign were meant to entice identification and attachment to an image of
the neighborhood as a wonderful, multicultural community. As Sander would say:
“I want to give them [residents] the feeling that this is a wonderful
neighborhood. […] And that they can contribute to that.”
Second, the introduction of the Neighborhood Management converged with the
appointment and education of a team of policy practitioners who were instructed
3 This management-approach originated from a pilot-project called Partnership on Socio-Economic
and Integrated Development of Deprived Neighborhoods (POSEIDON), which had been implemented
and carried out in an adjacent neighborhood in the district. It was an experiment on working with a bot-
tom-up renewal strategy in several deprived neighborhoods in European cities. It was evaluated as suc-
cessful and introduced to the neighborhood of Slotermeer in 2007.
4 In Dutch, “meer” means “lake,” which gave Slotermeer its name as there is a lake in the district.
However, in this call, another meaning of “meer” is used, as it also means “more.”
to work according to the principles of a new “innovative work method.” This work
method was called the “personal approach:” it was a way of working that advocat-
ed “good social relations in the participation process,” paid much attention to cre-
ate “a safe and pleasant environment and cultural events as linkages between resi-
dents” and put a “focus not only directed towards content (ratio) but also towards
relations (emotions).” In order to adhere to these values, policy practitioners were
offered several “involvement techniques” to work with. These techniques are sup-
posed to help relieve restrictions to participation. One of those techniques was
“psychological access:” “the unspoken messages and ‘cultural codes’ and the feel-
ings residents have that tell them whether to feel welcome or not.”
Karen, a practitioner, translated these techniques into her vision of Neighbor-
hood Circle. In order for it to function properly, a mental and emotional transfor-
mation was necessary among residents of Slotermeer:
“Some of them do voluntarily help out their family members. But
they don’t see that as a voluntary activity, because it is family, it’s
close. It’s that family atmosphere, that feeling, that we try to link to
the neighborhood.”
Third, qualified as the most effective aspect of the Neighborhood Circle -
campaign, were collective gatherings where policy practitioners, volunteers and
other residents came together to brainstorm ideas, activities and projects benefit-
ing the neighborhood. The gatherings took on a more informal character. The ef-
forts of Sander and his colleagues, meant to create “a cozy atmosphere,” originat-
ed from the assumption that the conduct and feelings of residents could change if
their interactions changed. During these gatherings, volunteers who had organized
something for their neighbors were put in the spotlight, asked to share their stories
and, most importantly, their feelings of affection in the hope it would ignite
similar feelings among other residents and inspire them to undertake voluntary ac-
tivities in Slotermeer. As such, these volunteers were presented and celebrated as
the “good” citizens of the neighborhood community.
The notions of coziness, intimacy and informality were referred to more often
by practitioners of the Neighborhood Management-team. They could be seen as a
sort of “feeling rules” (Hochschild 2003): implicit directions that guided residents
how they should feel in certain situations, or with regard to certain issues and the
way they should express and act upon those feelings. These three aspects of
Neighborhood Circle branding the neighborhood as a community, addressing
residents through a personal work method and organizing cozy gatherings can be
seen as affective interventions. Through these interventions, new subject-citizen
positions are made. Yet, these subject-positions are very specific and only some
residents feel at home in them. I will now turn to the residents who were targeted
by these policy interventions. How did they respond to the invitation to become an
affective citizen?
5. The Respected Citizen
“Love goes through the stomach, that’s the saying, isn’t?” Khadija, a volunteer
who organizes weekly coffee mornings for women in the community center, is
queuing next to a buffet table at a gathering and shares with me why she appreci-
ates the presence of a buffet at every gathering. Present at most gatherings is a ta-
ble with food and drinks and there is a moment reserved for indulging in some
tasty food together. Together, we chit-chat some more about the food and Khadija
explains what is likely in the stuffing of the pastry snacks on the table. The food is
usually prepared by a female volunteer who prepares something from her own
gastronomical tradition: sometimes these are pastry snacks from the Moroccan
kitchen, at other times it might be Turkish soup and sweets or Surinamese treats.
This evening, chairman Bert, opens the meeting with a request for an applause for
Samira, the woman who has prepared the delicious buffet. For Khadija, these
moments of eating together provide a nice opportunity to reach out to others:
“I like to see people eating cozily together. It is important […] in
my culture. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, whether you’re
Muslim or Christian or I don’t know what.”
Eating together and other activities related to food is an important aspect of
the affective citizenship that policy practitioners try to provoke among residents.
In Slotermeer’s community centers, there are numerous cooking clubs for women
and children, dinners for lonely elderly, coffee mornings for women and neigh-
borhood barbecues and dinners organized around cultural holidays (such as
Christmas and Ramadan). All this is made possible by the voluntary engagement
of residents, the organizational help of policy practitioners and the financial sup-
port of the district government.
The majority of residents organizing voluntary activities around food are, as
Khadija and Samira, female volunteers usually mothers from diverse cultural
backgrounds. Most of the female volunteers have lived in Slotermeer for quite
some years, yet they have not been actively participating in the neighborhood due
to unequal access to resources and opportunities (see Martin 2002, for an elaborate
explanation of the poor role of women in neighborhood participation). The affec-
tive interventions accompanying the implementation of the Neighborhood Circle
finally offer them an opportunity to partake in the public sphere of the (imagined)
community. They may not be neighborhood mayors who publicly call politicians
and aldermen to the stand through the discursive power of words, but they are
qualified as “kitchen princesses” who are able to bring residents together over a
tasty meal and have them engage in conversation by investing their cooking tal-
ents. According to Karen, eating together has a “bonding function.” Surely, if love
goes through the stomach, then feelings of affection and respect will also go
through there?
As such, activities organized around food are seen as encouraging interactions
and crafting relations between residents. Quincy, a policy practitioner, emphasizes
that any form of meaningful interaction starts with a conversation:
“Fear and nasty emotions will be released if you don’t talk to each
other. Because then people don’t know each other […]. They might
only talk about minor things, but at least they talk, and they will
talk about how they feel about those things.”
That food was regarded and felt about as such was already guided by Sander
who, in his role of chairman at most of the gatherings, introduced the buffet as de-
licious “multicultural” snacks and made them part of a short narrative on
Slotermeer as a “rainbow pallet” of diversities and cultures. The activities and in-
teractions that made up the Neighborhood Circle turned the neighborhood into a
“colorful mosaic of people.” Qualifying the food as “multicultural” and praising
seemingly insignificant small scale activities around food policy practitioners
employ the sensory experience of tasting and eating to invoke positive emotions
such as curiosity, respect and affection. Opening up to each other’s gastronomical
traditions is meant to help residents become acquainted and learn more about each
other’s rich culture. As such, it helps policy practitioners to accentuate and em-
phasize positive aspects of the everyday, multicultural reality in Slotermeer and
reframe the stereotypical negative image of a multi-ethnic neighborhood. Female
volunteers such as Khadija and Samira are key figures in this process as cooking is
a typical everyday practice that lays bare the hidden strengths of mostly
(post)migrant women.
However, it is not only the sensory experience of cooking, tasting and eating
that triggers (post)migrant women into an affective subject-position qualified as
“good.” They also appear sensitive to the cozy atmosphere during these gatherings
and the personal, intimate interaction with policy practitioners. They feel part of
“something warm” as Esra, a volunteer who organizes handicraft workshops for
women, describes her experience. The personal approach of Sander and his col-
leagues, the decorations, the ways of talking and doing create an atmosphere that
women enjoy and feel at home in. Ozlem, another volunteer, explains:
“When I go home after a gathering I no longer feel that I’m Ozlem,
I’m not just a mother. […] I meet my neighbors and I see what’s
happening here and I can contribute to that. It doesn’t have to be
that serious […] it can also be in a fun way.”
During gatherings, the atmosphere is playful and devoid of a sense of hierar-
chy. The affective interventions during the gatherings bring about laughter, ani-
mated talk and jokes. During one gathering, some (post)migrant women tease
practitioner Paul who sits at their table and brainstorms good ideas for the neigh-
borhood with them. The women decide that they want to start a teahouse for
women, as (post)migrant men already have the coffeehouses in the neighborhood
to themselves. Paul says that, as a man, he feels excluded, acts as if he is upset and
pretends he wants to leave the table. The women laugh, one of them playfully puts
an arm around his shoulder and says they will make an exception for him, because
he is so special. “We will need a waiter,” another woman jokingly adds to the
conversation. They laugh again and brainstorm further.
The women tend to talk about policy practitioners in personal accounts. They
idolize Sander as “he is so wonderful” and “he is always there for us.” Cyril, a
volunteer, calls policy practitioner Rosanna “a sweetheart” because she is always
so enthusiastic and helpful:
“Rosanna is such a busy bee. Last week, she helped out with the
preparations of our festival. Mind you, it was during the weekend!
[…] She’s so enthusiastic, sometimes even more than we are! It’s
just contagious, it makes me enthusiastic about things and then I
think about starting something new, even though I actually don’t
have the time for that at the moment.”
Wilma, a policy practitioner, is seen as “part of our women’s family” by Khadi-
ja. Wilma believed in Khadija from the start and gave her the confidence to “do
something good for the neighborhood.” The affective interventions that, in a sub-
tle and sometimes direct way, guide residents into positive feelings and interac-
tions with their neighbors, resonate with Khadija’s feelings of affection and com-
passion for (post)migrant women in the neighborhood who have to deal with
loneliness and other lagging empowerment issues. She, of course, has been aware
of this through her contacts with other women but it was Wilma who specifi-
cally addressed her during a visit to the community center:
“Wilma told us that there were still so many women who have nev-
er been to school, are still not able to leave the house and have no
outlet or possibilities. I felt really sad about that because I have
made some steps in my life, but other women are not there yet. But
that doesn’t mean that they are not important or that they should not
be part of this neighborhood. I guess she told us to cherish our posi-
tion and do something in return.”
With the encouragement from Wilma, Khadija acted upon her feelings and or-
ganized a coffee morning meant for “women of all cultures” to have a place “to
laugh, forget, talk and gather information on everything that concerns women in
the neighborhood.” Sander and other policy practitioners did not spare any occa-
sion in which they could share their feelings of pride about the dedication and
commitment women as Khadija, Samira and Ozlem displayed for the neighbor-
Concluding, female volunteers feel recognized and seen in their enactment of
community. The affective interventions resonate with sensitive and relational as-
pects to human interaction they value: positive feedback, warmth, touch, eating
together and celebrating. In addition, the call upon positive emotions such as af-
fection, compassion and respect is expressed in the importance they attach to soft,
female values. Subsequently, the personal and public recognition of policy practi-
tioners gives them a feeling of pride: finally, they are also able to participate and
become included into the public sphere of the community as respected citizens.
However, when the district government and policy practitioners invite “active
residents, initiative takers and volunteers” to become active in Neighborhood Cir-
cle, other residents than (post)migrant women feel that this is directly addressed to
them, as they feel a strong attachment to the neighborhood and have been engaged
in all sort of voluntary practices for many years.
6. The Resentful Citizen
“In the past, my daughter played here. The playground was also
used by the primary school. Back then, there was still supervision.
Ten years ago, the place started to deteriorate slowly. We founded a
playground-association in order to stop the deterioration and man-
aged to collect [thousands of euro] to buy new play sets and prevent
the playground from closing. We rented the ground for a symbolic
amount from the district government and signed a contract with
them. I supervised the playground, opened it in the morning and
closed it in the evening. We were open every day. That went well
for years.”
A resident who takes up the invitation to become engaged in Neighborhood
Circle is Dirk, a retired widower who has moved to Slotermeer over forty years
ago. He has been a volunteer for over twenty years now: apart from guarding the
playground, he teaches computer lessons to elderly in the community center, is a
chairman of a neighborhood committee and member of the Residential Platform of
Slotermeer. He considers himself somewhat of a “nosey parker” as he likes to
keep a close eye on what happens in his quarter, but also on political issues con-
cerning the neighborhood. Klaas, who introduces himself as a resident “of the first
hour,” organizes small concerts for residents in the elderly home. He has been an
active volunteer in Slotermeer for over decades as well, among others as chairman
of another neighborhood committee, and sees it as his “duty” to participate. When
the Neighborhood Circle -call for volunteers came, he was initially delighted that
the district government wants to support “our community.”
However, when these autochthonous volunteers attend the installation gather-
ing of the Neighborhood Circle, they appear to be somewhat surprised by the co-
zy, informal atmosphere. Confronted with the food and its qualification as multi-
cultural, Dirk expresses a mix of disappointment and frustration. He wonders out
loud why “our food [is] not good enough?” Why is there no cheese or liverwurst,
for example? With “our food” he refers to food he identifies as Dutch. While poli-
cy practitioners appreciate food and eating together as a practice that crafts and
encourages affective relations between people, it appears to have the opposite ef-
fect on Dirk. In this particular context, Dirk does not experience eating together as
a binding ritual. However, he does recognize the importance of voluntary activi-
ties organized around cooking and eating. His neighbor Piet has just volunteered
to start a cooking club and he praises him for that. However, when I talk to Piet
about the Neighborhood Circle -gathering, he expresses himself equally negative
about the snacks presented at the gathering:
“What on earth is there to celebrate? […] That they can cook some-
thing nice? Or they are able to organize a coffee morning as well?
Well, congratulations! But you know, as a man, I’m not welcome,
because those mornings are only for women. And they [policy prac-
titioners] approve of that. So, I can’t visit the community center,
because every Wednesday morning they are […] chit-chatting,
drinking coffee and doing nothing at the expense of our community
money. That’s not something to celebrate, that’s just sad.”
How do Dirk and Piet’s feelings of discontent relate to the affective inte rven-
tions of policy practitioners who try to celebrate and invoke positive feelings
about something that, to Piet, is “just sad”? Their equally negative remarks about
the decoration and festive atmosphere in the gatherings provide a frame of refer-
ence. The cozy, informal atmosphere during gatherings appears to interpellate
negative emotions already present among autochthonous volunteers and their sen-
sitivity to cultural alterity is shaped by more than the affective interventions they
are subjected within the Neighborhood Circle-program.
Dirk, Klaas and Piet belong to a core group of autochthonous volunteers that
have organized voluntary activities in the community center, have kept a close eye
on issues concerning the public environment or have interfered collectively with
social policy and political issues through neighborhood committees for over many
years. In 2010, amidst the diversities of cultures and ethnicities living in
Slotermeer, a minority of 32 per cent of residents living in Slotermeer were quali-
fied as native Dutch most of them 50-plus. Autochthonous volunteers identified
strongly with the native Dutch population that had been shrinking over the past
decades at the expense of a growing multi-ethnic population. Between 2000 and
2010, the share of non-Western migrants had grown with 16 percent in
Slotermeer.5 The public image of these residents is that they are trapped in de-
prived, multicultural neighborhoods due to a lack of economical or other opportu-
nities and are unable to move out. However, having moved into Slotermeer dec-
ades ago, when it was still a well-regarded district, volunteers such as Klaas, Jan
and Piet expressed a strong sense of belonging to other autochthonous volunteers
and certain parks, squares and public places in the neighborhood, which motivat-
ed, and still motivates, them to feel concerned, engaged and become voluntary ac-
The affective interventions not only address and intervene in their corroded
feeling of home but also in their ability to publicly express this feeling through
voluntary activities. Their feelings of disappointment, frustration and anger
aroused by the affective interventions only increase a feeling of resentment to-
5 Gemeente Amsterdam, Dienst Onderzoek + Statistiek. 2010. Staat van de Wijk 3, Geuzenveld-
wards (post)migrant women. It offers (post)migrant women the opportunity to be
publicly praised as the ideal affective subject, and also frames a multicultural co-
ziness as an ideal format for the imagined neighborhood community. Autochtho-
nous volunteers resent the public recognition for the cooking skills, compassion
and heart-warming activities of women, as they feel it comes at the expense of
recognition of their own engagement and efforts “for years on end.”
The expression “for years on end” was used more often by autochthonous vol-
unteers. The words expressed a feeling of not being recognized for all those years
of dedication, commitment and expression of voice in neighborhood matters. For
autochthonous volunteers, publicly enacting community is also about important
neighborhood issues such as safety, deterioration of public space and other livabil-
ity issues, and not solely about cozy and fun things. In the past, citizenship was
about influence and criticism on social policy and district politics and not about
every day, informal activities and “professional multi-nonsense.” That has all been
“ruined” by the district government and policy practitioners who “are dancing to
the tunes” of migrants in the neighborhood. Autochthonous volunteers primarily
see that other residents are having a good time with practitioners and they feel ne-
glected and excluded from this enactment of community.
As such, these volunteers actively resist against a multicultural, warm sense of
sociability: it is not an atmosphere they feel at home in. It explains why Sander,
when he gives examples of voluntary activities in Slotermeer and refers to the
heart-warming enthusiasm with which some women have volunteered to become
“playground mothers” and take care of the children of the playground, is inter-
rupted by Dirk, who asks why “nobody seems to care” for his playground, as it is
“something I’ve been concerned with for a long time now.” The playground is in a
deteriorated state and needs more serious support from the district government in
order to keep it open. More superficial coziness and festive gatherings such as the-
se are not going to help.
These feelings of resentment are noticed by Karen, a policy practitioner. How-
ever, she explains that the goal of Neighborhood Circle is also to make it more in-
clusive for new residents:
“The active core of these residents is still present. But it has
changed. Four years ago, […] there were primarily white, older
men participating and they managed to keep the rest out. The intro-
duction of a different policy has changed this. Now we see more
young people, Turkish and Moroccans participating.”
It appears that Karen is hesitant to relate to feelings of discontent among Dirk
and other autochthonous volunteers. This lack of recognition is felt by these vol-
unteers, and they actively protest against it. As such, their resentment towards
(post)migrant women and policy practitioners can be understood within the con-
text of the affective interventions and the competition for recognition, instead of a
direct rejection of the women themselves. It explains why Dirk, Klaas and Jan re-
fuse to enter the community center during the installation gathering of Neighbor-
hood Circle . They are not only standing outside, they feel left outside as well.
The type of citizenship that native Dutch volunteers are accustomed to and feel
at home in is based on a republican citizenship ideal in which rational and discur-
sive competences are valued. They want to be consulted by politicians and be able
to express their voice in neighborhood issues. What belongs to the public sphere in
the new affective citizenship ideal a certain public conduct based on positive
emotions excludes their engagement, which originates from both positive and
negative emotions. Consequently, affective interventions end up privatizing their
negative emotions as it takes away a public stage to express and act upon them
publicly and collectively.
7. Conclusion: Feelings of Inclusion and Exclusion
An ethnographic insight into practices, motives and emotions of residents and
policy practitioners when enacting community in Slotermeer shows how affective
citizenship can be understood as a governmental strategy, how residents are af-
fected by it and how it (re)enacts boundaries between residents and between resi-
dents and policy practitioners (as representatives of a district government) in prac-
tices of subjectification.
Through a reinvention of a localized sense of community, pressing neighbor-
hood issues lagging emancipation, deterioration of public space and other ex-
pressions of urban marginality are framed as being a result of “relational pov-
erty” (Muehlebach 2012, p. 38) instead of socio-economic poverty. The evocation
of a certain affective subject-position in a community participation-program trans-
forms the public sphere as it creates new forms of participation and recognition
and sees the emergence of a respected and resentful citizen. This points to some
promising and problematic aspects of this phenomenon.
One the one hand, there is the respected citizen embodied by (post)migrant
women who feel proud to finally be able to participate. Recognized and respected
by policy practitioners, the respected citizen is mobilized as a member of the pub-
lic who can regenerate the neighborhood with their sensibilities and small, delicate
talents. For women to feel at home in an affective citizen-subject position is not
remarkable. The emotional appeal and emphasis on meaningful interactions and
informal sensitivities brings forth the value of social and personal relations. It res-
onates well with soft, feminine values such as empathy, affection and collabora-
tive spirit. In addition, through emphasizing the power of informal, intimate prac-
tices such as cooking, the private, intimate domain of the kitchen is brought out
into the public. Once again, the personal is made political, albeit in a different
manner than feminists intended when first using the slogan (Lister 1997). The tra-
ditional female domain is imbued with new meaning and simultaneously gives
new meaning to the associational and public sphere of the community (Martin
2002; Buckingham et al. 2006). The focus on relational and emotional aspects ap-
peals to a new group of residents, which points to the emancipatory potential of
affective citizenship.
On the other hand, there is the resentful citizen embodied by autochthonous
volunteers who feel unrecognized by policy practitioners, publicly displaced by
(post)migrant women and unable to “politicize” neighborhood matters as they
used to do. Affective citizenship is a governmental strategy that appears to appre-
ciate certain emotions and civic values, but which fails to recognize alternative
feelings of discontent that give rise to oppositional voices or antagonistic interac-
tions. As such, it excludes other forms of public conduct and citizenship for in-
stance, republican citizenship (see Van Gunsteren 1998) from the public sphere
of the community. It is good to have fun, warm neighborly contact; it is bad to
critically voice neighborhood problems. When George Marcus (2002 in: Johnson
2010, p. 506) claimed that “the solution to good citizenship is located in our ca-
pacity to feel,” he also acknowledged the mobilizing force of negative emotions.
The resentful feelings of autochthonous volunteers, which can be seen to emerge
at least partly from the affective interventions of Neighborhood Circle, under-
scores the importance of Marcus’ argument.
The case study of Slotermeer underscores the argument of Fortier (2010, p. 27),
who states that the governmental strategy of affective citizenship becomes “orga-
nized around an economy of feelings: the design, circulation and distribution of
legitimate feelings for and within the community delineate the codes of conduct of
the good affective citizen and establishes a differential value in the currency of
feelings.” In Slotermeer, the result is a public sphere in which some emotions are
recognized more than others. The reactions of those who feel excluded from this
public sphere underscore the argument of governmentality-critics, who have
warned against attributing to governmentality a coherence that it lacks and assum-
ing the success of governmental projects in achieving the desired aims (see Clarke
2010; Larner 2005). Clarke et al. (2007, p. 33) state that governing is “a profoun d-
ly uneven and incomplete process in which subjects succumb, sign up, or comply
but may also resist or prove recalcitrant and troublesome.” A focus on governing
through the whimsical nature of emotions teaches us just how delicate the process
of assembling an affective citizen can be. It brings forth negative emotions as well
and leaves a sense of fellow feeling and community far away. In Slotermeer, we
see that affective citizenship does not so much bring a neighborhood community
into being but does exactly the opposite; it provokes feelings of inclusion and ex-
clusion among different groups of volunteers. In the end, the previous outsiders fi-
nally feel established, and the previously established feel like outsiders (cf. Elias
[1976] 2005).
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... Die lokale Perspektive verspricht dabei neue Einsichten, insofern der politische und gesellschaftliche Umgang mit " Islam " bislang überwiegend mit Blick auf die nationale (und supra-nationale) Ebene thematisiert wurde (Koenig, 2003;Modood et al., 2006;Tezcan, 2009Tezcan, , 2012Peter, 2008Peter, , 2010Silvestri, 2010;Amir-Moazami, 2011a;Mavelli, 2013;Schiffauer, 2006;Schubert und Meyer, 2011;Isik und Schmitz, 2015). Ich werde argumentieren, dass der Dialog mit dem " Islam " als eine emotionalisierte Technologie lokaler Vergemeinschaftung gefasst werden kann (De Wilde, 2015). Ich argumentiere, dass diese Technologie sowie die dadurch ermöglichten Normierungseffekte im Hinblick auf die Formung " muslimischer " Identitäten auf ReKonfigurierungsprozessen des Verhältnisses zwischen Religion, (Lokal-)Politik und (Stadt-)Gesellschaft beruhen. ...
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