Koen van Eijck read Wees onzichtbaar by Murat Isik, Ik ga leven by Lale Gül and De gevangenisjaren by Erdal Balci. This helped him understand what it’s like to grow up as a Turkish child in an oppressive community in the Netherlands. De gevangenisjaren had an impact on him due to the sharp criticism of the left elite, with which Van Eijck also identifies.
Progressive and enlightened life
In Balci’s autobiographical novel, he describes how, as a child, he was looking forward to moving to the Netherlands. He was determined to embrace a progressive and enlightened life. Reality proved different. The Turkish community in the Netherlands was a strong enforcer of conformity. Less than a year after arriving in the Netherlands, he was having lessons in the Koran, and he was praying more than ever before. Balci’s life in the Netherlands moved backwards and he blames that on the Dutch left elite, among others.
According to Balci, the Turkish people in the Netherlands are left to their own devices. He feels that the left elite uncritically regards them as an exotic gift, making it difficult for Turkish people to escape their foreigner compartmentalisation. “The left elite has blind spots too,” says Koen van Eijck, “but when you are personally part of the left spectrum, you’re not aware of that. If you support a multicultural society, that automatically means that you can’t criticise Islam. The left elite looks away when aspects of Islam, as described by Balci, limits people’s freedom to choose.”
The drummer in the band
For several years, Van Eijck was the drummer in a Turkish band with three Dutch members and three Turkish members. He auditioned for the band because of the multiple time signatures in Turkish music, out of interest and for his own musical development.
“I really recognised the multicultural compartmentalisation which our band couldn’t escape. We would play on the side at a Turkish flea market, at PvdA demonstrations and Groenlinks meetups. We never played too loudly and never for too long in places where Turkish acrobatics or theatre were equally enjoyed. So long as it was multicultural. That band was not a major attempt at emancipation for me,” Van Eijck evaluates. “In fact, I hated the political context. I just wanted to play in a normal band. I left after a couple of years.”
Number of books a year: thirty
Main motivation: curiosity
Favourite genre: non-fiction
Last book read: ‘Een nameloze’ by Charles Vergeer
Sociologist by chance
Van Eijck studied Psychology and accidentally rolled into sociology. During an interview for his PhD research, he realised that it was about a position in sociology. “That was a surprise to me, which I tried not to show to the interviewer. So moving from Psychology to Sociology was actually an ‘oops, sorry’ moment!” It proved a good move and he stayed with the sociologists.
“As a discipline, sociology is very careful about criticising the multicultural society. Researchers may highlight differences between ethnic groups, but the scientist ensures it doesn’t become too normative.” Although social scientists are often left wing, ultimately a sociologist must be willing to explore any subject, says Van Eijck.
Although there may be one subject that Van Eijck is not willing to research: his fascination with spirituality. “I’ve sometimes thought about researching spirituality and art. But how do I make that measurable? And try to be taken seriously with such a subject. Let alone apply for funding.”
So, he just reads about it. He is currently reading the book Eindeloos bewustzijn about near death experiences by Pim van Lommel. He also reads ‘books that my colleagues would probably find slightly weird’. “Books about very early Christendom, about the Christians who engaged with religion for mystical reasons and expert opinion. And books asking: what has happened to religion? De gevangenisjaren is not a theoretical but an autobiographical example of that.”
Koen van Eijck is Professor of Cultural Lifestyles. His research focuses on social inequality in culture participation, taste patterns and leisure activities. He recently studied whether music becomes more enjoyable the more you hear it. Van Eijck graduated in psychology in Nijmegen and did a PhD in sociology at the University of Tilburg.