Netherlands American Studies Association

Amerikanistendag 2010 at the University of Amsterdam

The 18th NASA Amerikanistendag was held in Amsterdam on March 5, 2010. The theme of the day was “Hopes of Harmony and Reform in American History and Culture.”

For this event the keynote speaker was Professor James D. Bratt of Calvin College, currently Fulbright-Dow Distinguished Research Fellow at the Roosevelt Study Center. With his lecture, James Bratt cast doubts on America’s ability to keep reinventing itself. In contrast to the accepted comparison between North America and Europe, he challenged the common held view of the U.S. as a “young” nation and instead contrasted it with a Europe that was ahead in terms of socio-economic policy and overall standard of life. Bratt confirmed that the U.S. had been through times of decline before, most recently at the end of the 1980s when spiralling government debt and the rise of Japan seemed to be ushering in a downward trend (as suggested by Paul Kennedy in The Rise and Decline of the Great Powers), but this time it is less certain that the United States will be able to overcome its fiscal deficiencies and military overstretch. Whether one agreed with James’s assessment of Europe or not, his image of an America having to come to terms with its own limitations made for an enthralling lecture that started the day off in fine style.

Subsequent to the lecture, six workshops were given, where M.A. and Ph.D. students presented their research to and discussed their research with the other participants. Topics included the Roosevelts, American literature, Jewish history, the United States in Film and Media, and Native American Fiction. 

To close of the official part of the day, a plenary forum was held discussing the trouble spots in Dutch and American society, inevitably settling on comparing Geert Wilders in Dutch politics with the role of the Tea Party Movement in American politics. After some inconclusive but nevertheless enervating discussion, the day ended on a lighter note in the nearby University bar.

This Amerikanistendag also involved an experiment. Students attending were asked to pay a €12.50 entrance fee, for which they would also gain membership of NASA for 2010. Designed to encourage student participation in NASA, the initiative was a success as it produced around 25 new members for the Association.