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Eléments d’histoire sociale, politique et culturelle de la Belgique

année académique

Titulaire(s) du cours

François HEINDERYCKX (Coordonnateur) et Jan Zienkowski

Crédits ECTS


Langue(s) d'enseignement


Contenu du cours

This course provides a general introduction into key elements of the social, political, and cultural history of Belgium. The first part of this course provides a broad overview of the ideological, socio-economic, and ethno-linguistic fault lines that have shaped (the history of) this country. Special attention goes to the process of (de-) pillarization. All editions of this course contain lessons dedicated to the following topics: the history of migration in Belgium; the Belgian media landscape; Belgian debates on race, racism, integration and (super)diversity. In addition, the course organizers collaborate with a wide range of guest speakers who specialize in: Belgian debates on colonialism and decolonization; contemporary dance; the Belgian comic book sector; Belgian and European welfare policies. This list is not exhaustive. Because this course is organized three times per year the course organizers draw on a wide range of guest speakers in function of their availability. The course organizers take care to contextualize the topics and developments addressed in this course, within a wider European framework, and actively invite students to make comparisons with social, political, and cultural realities in the United States.

Objectifs (et/ou acquis d'apprentissages spécifiques)

This course is primarily intended as a crash course about Belgium for incoming journalism and corporate communication students enrolled at the University of Missouri who visit Brussels and the ULB in the context of an international internship in Belgium-based organizations and companies. The course is also open for ULB Master students in multilingual communication. Following this class, students will:

  • develop basic insights into the socio-economic, ideological, and ethno-linguistic factors that have shaped Belgium;
  • be able to recognize stereotypical ways of thinking about Belgian identities in the North and South of the country;
  • be familiarized with less-known aspects of Belgium’s history of colonialism and migration, as well as with a wide range of other issues;
  • be sensitized to key differences between US and Belgian or European discourses about race and racism;
  • be sensitized to Belgium’s internal diversity and be able to discuss parallels and differences between the regions and communities that characterize this country.

Pré-requis et Co-requis

Connaissances et compétences pré-requises ou co-requises

No preliminary knowledge or competences are required.

Méthodes d'enseignement et activités d'apprentissages

After a general introduction provided by Jan Zienkowski and François Heinderyckx, students are given weekly reading assignments. Each text provides an introduction into the following week’s topic. Where possible, texts allow for a comparison with the US or with other European contexts. Students are expected to upload their answers to a set of questions one day prior to each lesson. This facilitates fruitful exchanges between lecturers and students. In function of the Brussels cultural agenda we suggest events and visits, sometimes organized as part of the course.

Contribution au profil d'enseignement

The course is open to Master students in multilingual communication. Even if the course was initially developed as a course for exchange students from the University of Missouri, its focus on developments and debates on both sides of the Belgian language border, and the systematic comparisons with the context of the United States, make this course relevant for anyone taking an interest in intercultural, international and/or multilingual communication.

Références, bibliographie et lectures recommandées

This list is not exhaustive and may be amended with other texts. Obligatory and recommended texts will be published on the UV (Université Virtuelle) of the ULB.

  • Berg, Manfred, Paul Schor, and Isabel Soto. 2014. ‘The Weight of Words: Writing about Race in the United States and Europe’. The American Historical Review 119 (3): 800–808. https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/119.3.800.
  • Billiet, Jaak, Bart Maddens, and André-Paul Frognier. 2006. ‘Does Belgium (Still) Exist? Differences in Political Culture between Flemings and Walloons’. West European Politics 29 (5): 912–32. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402380600968802.
  • Blommaert, Jan. 2011. ‘The Long Language-Ideological Debate in Belgium’. Journal of Multicultural Discourses 6 (3): 241–56. https://doi.org/10.1080/17447143.2011.595492.
  • Bragard, Véronique. 2011. ‘“Indépendance!”: The Belgo-Congolese Dispute in the Tervuren Museum’.
  • Bragard, Véronique, and Stéphanie Planche. 2009. ‘Museum Practices and the Belgian Colonial Past: Questioning the Memories of an Ambivalent Metropole’. African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal 2 (2): 181–91. https://doi.org/10.1080/17528630902981332.
  • De Genova, Nicholas. 2018. ‘The “Migrant Crisis” as Racial Crisis: Do Black Lives Matter in Europe?’ Ethnic and Racial Studies 41 (10): 1765–82. https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2017.1361543.
  • De Winter, Lieven, Marc Swyngedouw, and Patrick Dumont. 2006. ‘Party System(s) and Electoral Behaviour in Belgium: From Stability to Balkanisation’. West European Politics 29 (5): 933–56. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402380600968836.
  • DeBlock, Hugo. 2019. ‘The Africa Museum of Tervuren, Belgium: The Reopening of “The Last Colonial Museum in the World”, Issues on Decolonization and Repatriation’. Museum and Society 17 (2): 272–81. https://doi.org/10.29311/mas.v17i2.3066.
  • Deneckere, Gita, Bruno De Wever, and Tom De Paepe. 2021. Een Geschiedenis van België. Gent: Academia Press.
  • Deschouwer, Kris. 2012. The Politics of Belgium. 2nd ed. Comparative Government and Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Gryseels, Guido, Gabrielle Landry, and Koeki Claessens. 2005. ‘Integrating the Past: Transformation and Renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium’. European Review 13 (4): 637–47. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1062798705000852.
  • Koen Van Der Bracht, Bart Van De Putte, Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe, and Klaartje Van Kerckem. 2014. ‘Ethnic Diversity in Belgium: Old and New Migration, Old and New Developments’. DiGeSt. Journal of Diversity and Gender Studies 1 (1): 73. https://doi.org/10.11116/jdivegendstud.1.1.0073.
  • Martiniello, Marco. 2013. ‘Belgium, Migration, 1946 to Present’. In The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration, edited by Immanuel Ness, wbeghm063. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm063.
  • O’Donnell, Paul, and Annemarie Toebosch. 2008. ‘Multilingualism in Brussels: “I’d Rather Speak English”’. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 29 (2): 154–69. https://doi.org/10.2167/jmmd564.0.
  • Poncelet, Marc. 2020. ‘Colonial Ideology, Colonial Sciences and Colonial Sociology in Belgium’. The American Sociologist 51 (2): 148–71. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12108-020-09455-z.
  • Silverman, Debora L. 2015. ‘Diasporas of Art: History, the Tervuren Royal Museum for Central Africa, and the Politics of Memory in Belgium, 1885–2014’. The Journal of Modern History 87 (3): 615–67. https://doi.org/10.1086/682912.
  • Swenarton, Mark, Tom Avermaete, and Dirk Van Den Heuvel, eds. 2014. ‘The Welfare State in Flanders: De-Pillarization and the Nebulous City’. In Architecture and the Welfare State, 0 ed., 57–74. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315766928-8.
  • Swenden, Wilfried, Marleen Brans, and Lieven De Winter. 2006. ‘The Politics of Belgium: Institutions and Policy under Bipolar and Centrifugal Federalism’. West European Politics 29 (5): 863–73. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402380600968729.
  • Van Bockhaven, Vicky. 2019. ‘Decolonising the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium’s Second Museum Age’. Antiquity 93 (370): 1082–87. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2019.83.
  • Van Brussel, Leen. 2018. ‘The Right to Die: A Belgian Case Study Combining Reception Studies and Discourse Theory’. Media, Culture & Society 40 (3): 381–96. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443717718255.
  • Van Der Jeught, Stefaan. 2017. ‘Territoriality and Freedom of Language: The Case of Belgium’. Current Issues in Language Planning 18 (2): 181–98. https://doi.org/10.1080/14664208.2016.1243883.
  • Vandenbroucke, Mieke. 2015. ‘Language Visibility, Functionality and Meaning across Various TimeSpace Scales in Brussels’ Multilingual Landscapes’. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 36 (2): 163–81. https://doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2014.909442.
  • Vogl, Ulrike, and Matthias Hüning. 2010. ‘One Nation, One Language? The Case of Belgium’. Dutch Crossing 34 (3): 228–47. https://doi.org/10.1179/030965610X12820418688570.
  • Wayenberg, Ellen, Filip De Rynck, Kristof Steyvers, and Jean‐Benoît Pilet. 2011. ‘Belgium: A Tale of Regional Divergence?’ In The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe, edited by Frank Hendriks, Anders Lidström, and John Loughlin, 1st ed., 71–95. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199562978.003.0004.
  • Willemyns, Roland. 2002. ‘The Dutch-French Language Border in Belgium’. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 23 (1–2): 36–49. https://doi.org/10.1080/01434630208666453.

Autres renseignements




Méthode(s) d'évaluation

  • Travail personnel

Travail personnel

Students will be evaluated based on their participation to the weekly sessions (attendance is mandatory), on their weekly written assignments (to be uploaded before the given deadline), and on individually written argumentative or journalistic essays of 2000 words (after the last session). The argumentative essays are to be constructed around polemic statements such as ‘there is no such thing as a Belgian identity’ and should be written in public affairs style. The journalistic articles can focus on cultural, social, economic, or political aspects or phenomena relevant to the Belgian context. Essays must be grounded in facts and in academic sources. Newspaper archives and personal experience do not suffice. Presence and participation in the weekly assignments are obligatory.

Construction de la note (en ce compris, la pondération des notes partielles)

The grade of this course is based on the evaluation of an individually written essay (100%). 

Langue(s) d'évaluation

  • anglais