Dean's Master Class: 'December Rituals'

December 19 (Wednesday) 2018

Event information

  • ECTS: PhD candidates will receive 2.5 ECTS credits if they have participated in four editions (please indicate your previous sessions in the comment section of the enrolment form)
  • Number of session: 1
  • Hours per session: 4


  • This master class is exclusively for PhD candidates of the Graduate School.
  • Consult our enrolment policy for more information.

Telephone: +31 (0)10 40 82607

December 19 (Wednesday) 2018
12.30-17.00 (lunch included)
EUR Woudestein campus Rotterdam (directions) Polak building, room 3-14

December is a month that is full of festivities and rituals. In the Netherlands, this all starts already mid-November, when – after the St. Maarten celebrations on November 11 – "Sinterklaas" and his helpers arrive in the country to celebrate his birthday on December 5. Then, of course, there is Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and all festivities are finalised on New Year's Eve, when people light their own fireworks at midnight.

While, of old, such rituals are meant to bring communities together, the December month has instead become a bone of contention and a source of stress. The Dutch tradition to blackface Sinterklaas helpers (Black Pete) is a deeply controversial and divisive practice; there is an ongoing discussion whether national holidays should be solely based on Christian festivities; and it will not be long before the Dutch government will ban the individual lighting of fireworks. For some people December has become so stressful that they escape the country altogether, to enjoy sun or snow elsewhere.

These are the issues we will address in the Dean’s Master Class, appropriately planned on 19 December. We have a fantastic set of colleagues sharing their views and research. The assignment for this masterclass will be slightly different than usual. It will centre on the design of an inclusive December ritual to celebrate the closure of the old and the coming of the New Year.


  • 12.30 – 12.55 walk-in lunch
  • 12.55 – 13.00 opening
  • 13.00 – 14.00 presentations
  • 14.00 – 15.00 speed dating with the speakers
    Q&A session in groups
  • 15.00 – 16.30 ideas factory
    The assignment for this master class will be slightly different than usual. It will centre on the design of an inclusive December ritual to celebrate the closure of the old and the coming of the New Year.
  • 16.30 – 17.00 presentations research proposals
    Two members of each group presents the proposal to be reviewed by the speakers. The best proposals will be awarded the 'Dean's Award for Multidisciplinary Excellence' (DAME).
  • > 17.00 drinks


Dean's Master Class: 'December Rituals'

Assistant Professor Rogier van Reekum

Department of Public Administration and Sociology

Dr. Van Reekum writes about Dutch culture and identity, and has examined how traditional ‘Dutch’ practices like Sinterklaas have become icons of contestation. He will talk about: changing imaginaries of Dutchness and the significance of debate, race and identity in these imaginaries.

Required reading: 

Professor Wibren van der Burg

Erasmus School of Law

Professor Van der Burg’s expertise lies in the interaction between law, ethics and society. A special focus is on how law and politics should deal with the dynamics of cultural and religious pluralism. He will discuss whether the state should be neutral with regard to rituals with a cultural or religious background and how this can be organised in a diverse society.

Required reading:

Professor Stijn Reijnders

Department of Arts and Culture Studies

Most people tend to book their summer holidays in late December or early January. What is it that incites their imagination in precisely this moment in time? Professor Reijnders has written extensively about place, imagination and tourism. During the Masterclass he will talk about why and how people use their imagination to daydream about faraway locations.

Required reading: