Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thanks, Prins Bernhard!

Last Wednesday, my morning was brightened with a very unexpected piece of good news: I am the recipient of another grant.

This time it’s a Dutch cultural foundation, The Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds to be exact, and they’re giving me a lot of Euros to cover my living expenses in Morocco. Needless to say, I’m grateful, excited, and relieved. It means that I can afford to employ a research assistant, and that I can indulge in the occasional extra trip home.

But most of all, I love the idea that my research is now being funded by American as well as Dutch institutions. Working at the NIMAR has strengthened my self-identification as a hybrid. It hasn’t weaned me away from my Americanness as it drew the Dutchness that had floated to the deeper recesses of my sense of self closer to the surface. To the contrary: it’s helped me realize that to have one foot firmly planted in each culture is to have an identity based on the concept of ‘both’, rather than the notion of ‘split’. I am considered to be as Dutch as the colleagues that hail from Nijmegen or Zeeland – while simultaneously being accepted in all my Americanness. And suddenly, feeling fully Dutch is not a contradiction in terms with feeling fully American. I notice that it changes my comportment. I no longer mind mixing English idioms through my Dutch. I don’t mind not knowing a particular commercial that has my co-workers squirming on the floor with laughter, and I don’t mind messing up when I join the others in singing along with a Dutch classic. While there have been times when I concluded that two halves make less than a whole, I am of the conviction, lately, that in fact it’s two wholes that make an enriching mix.

I hadn’t expected to be eligible for a Dutch scholarship. Sure, I have a Dutch passport, but I’ve been educated abroad, and even my dissertation project has no relation to the Netherlands. This grant’s seeming lack of eligibility requirements seemed almost too good to be true, and I sent in my application with a fair portion of reservations. But here I am, two months later, the new recipient of a considerable sum of money. My American self has been accepted as Dutch enough all over again.
And in any case, if this research is an extension of myself (and considering that my relationship with this project first blossomed in the summer of 2007, it certainly feels as though it is), it seems only fitting that it be the hybrid I consider myself to be; that both American and Dutch funds come together to facilitate this project.

This grant – all of them (never thought I’d be able to speak of grants in the plural!) – means validation. It means that, despite the initial string of rejections, my project is worth funding, after all.

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