‘Wear Clogs and just Act Normal’: Defining Collectivity in Dutch Domestic Music Concerts

Femke Vandenberg, Michael Berghman, Koen van Eijck

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7 Citations (Scopus)


The last few decades have seen a surge in the consumption of locally produced popular music in the West. Domestic music – music made by national artists and sung in the national language – has gained increasing popularity, specifically within the lower to middle-class segments of the native population. This article uses the Dutch music genre levenslied to explore this growing trend. From a neo-Durkheimian perspective, we can assume the presence of collective effervescence – a shared intensified mood drawn from collective assembly. However, it is less clear how this collectivity is brought about and experienced. In other words, what are the requirements for this state of effervescence to occur? Looking not only at the totems these concertgoers celebrate but also the established symbolic boundaries, can help us understand how the group defines itself, adding to our knowledge of the rise in popularity of domestic music.

We interviewed 20 concertgoers about their experience of these concerts. The analysis finds that the establishment of collectivity is influenced by three symbolic boundaries: (1) intercultural, (2) interclass, and (3) intraclass. Through the negative othering of ethnic monitories – those considered socially higher, and those considered morally lower than themselves – the audiences of these concerts glorify a very narrow image of Dutchness, obtaining a sense of self-worth through the celebration of an idealized national image rooted in nostalgia. The increasing popularity of levenslied concerts (and domestic music more generally) can, therefore, be understood in relation to broader societal changes and connected with a ‘squeezed middle’ class, clinging to tradition and their declining social position.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalCultural Sociology (print)
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2020

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