chapter  11
11 Pages

Hurdling over borders: reflections on my intellectual trajectory

ByKarel Dobbelaere

Until my 18th year, I lived in a segmented world of the Belgian Catholic pillar.1 In the Belgian context pillars are religiously or ideologically legitimized structures that strive towards self-sufficiency by providing services for their members (e.g., their own schools, youth and adult organizations, trade unions, sick funds, hospitals, banks, and mass-media-newspapers, magazines, and libraries). Born into a Catholic family, I went to church and to Catholic schools and was a member of Catholic organizations. Pillarized Belgium consisted of a Catholic, a socialist, and a liberal pillar, which created vertical pluralism, and the Catholic pillar, which was the largest, was integrated on the basis of the Catholic collective consciousness. Pillarization was a form of segmental differentiation that was at its highest point in the 1950s. In Nieuwpoort, where I was born and went to primary school, there was, for example, Catholic and liberal music. In the summer they played in turn every other Sunday in the marketplace, but we only went to listen when the Catholic music was played. In Bruges, in a boarding-school where I did my secondary education, there was a liberal football club and a Catholic one. The boarders went every other Sunday to watch a match of the national football competition on the field of the Catholic club, never on the field of the liberal one. In other cities, such as Liège, there was a Catholic and a socialist football club. We lived “en vase clos.”