Book in the Spotlight: Het nieuwe Westen, over identiteitspolitiek en polarisatie

Author: Hans Boutellier, Professor of Polarization and Resilience 
Year of publication: 2021 
Favourite book of: Anthony Heidweiller
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Books as interlocutors

Anthony Heidweiller has not always been a reader. The fear and uncertainty of not understanding the content, and the question of whether he was fit to read books of different genres, dominated his thoughts. Gradually he realized that he may relate to all books in a way that suits him. This realization gave him peace of mind and with it the pleasure of reading. Books are now valuable conversation partners that he "speaks" to at all times at his own pace by browsing, scanning, reading, re-reading, pausing and putting away. He often takes inspiration from several books at once and approaches the chapters as talking points. This is not to say that he also wants to understand everything. If he did not understand a book, but the author touched him then that is just as valuable.   

He enjoys non-fiction stories that give him insight into the world. For example, he found comfort and support in Het nieuwe Westen. Hans Boutellier explains using historical events how the model of society in the West has always manifested itself by the grace of inequality. For Anthony, Het nieuwe Westen is a plea that a transition of the West is only possible through knowledge of history and the start of the conversation about whiteness. Boutellier was a guest at the Academy for Theatre and Dance in April 2022 and gave a lecture on his book. Anthony saw a vulnerable white man with a genuine interest in the past. This vulnerability invited Anthony to join Boutellier's line of thought. A line of thought that builds bridges between extreme opposites and lets them meet in the middle, such as the rejection of the West by Algerian-French Houria Bouteldja in Whites, Jews and Us (2020) and the hope that the West can still reinvent itself by Lebanese-French Amin Maalouf in The Wreck of Civilizations (2020).   

Moving into a society where reciprocity is the norm requires time and space. Movement is only possible by learning about our past, facing it and building on it. This transition, according to Anthony, must be initiated by studying and reading. With the hope that in the future, through better communication, the nuances will be found through stories, books and literature.