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Farewell Sjaak Kroon: 'Carnival and identity: you may never deny yourself or your origins'

Published: 25th May 2022 Last updated: 25th May 2022

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The election of a Moluccan Prince Carnival in the North Limburg town of Middelaar in 2011 stirred up the necessary pins, keys and tongues. But the prince did a fantastic job and gave the traditional carnival in Middelaar an extra dimension. In his farewell address, the outgoing professor Sjaak Kroon of the Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences searches for the answer to the question of how this came about. He found an explanation in Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the carnivalesque in which change is central.

According to Bakhtin, the essence of carnival is the temporary transformation. During carnival, everything is different and different rules and laws apply than in normal life. The normal order and hierarchy are broken, everyone is equal and people take on a different form. Men dressed as women, laymen as priests, citizens as kings, magicians, exotics, clowns with all kinds of masks - it's all possible. But on Ash Wednesday everything is back to normal. The same goes for the prince: when he is chosen, his resignation is already fixed. And that is exactly what made this prince, Eli Wattimena, special. He did resign as prince but did not also renounce his origin and ethnicity. 

Ideal mix of Moluccan and Middlesex identity

The story of the black prince is set in the context of globalization and diversity, and in the year that the PVV won the most votes in the parliamentary elections in Limburg. But the prince effortlessly combined his Moluccan and Middlesex identities into an ideal mix that effortlessly silenced the (limited) criticism of his election. As part of the close community of carnival celebrators he gave carnival club De Krölstarte an unforgettable carnival. 

Sjaak Kroon (1954) is Emeritus Professor at the Department of Cultural Studies of the Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences, Tilburg University. He studied Dutch Language and Literature at the Catholic University of Nijmegen (1972-1978), specializing in sociolinguistics. After his studies he worked for a year as a teacher of Dutch at the Stedelijk Lyceum in Zutphen. He obtained his doctorate at the KUN in 1985 with the thesis Grammar and communication in Dutch education. Since January 1, 1984 he has been affiliated with Tilburg University. There he was Professor of Multilingualism in the Multicultural Society from 2006 to 2020 and headed the Department of Cultural Studies from 2006 to 2016. 

Note for the press
Prof. Sjaak kroon will take his leave on June 3 at 16.15 in the auditorium with livestream.  The speech is titled: The Black Prince. About globalization, culture and carnival.  For more information please contact