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Master student Sociology researches Canal Parade and Pride week

3 August 2022
When you think of Amsterdam Pride, you might think of the annual Canal Parade, which attracts visitors from all over the world. But how does the Amsterdam LGBTQ+ community look at this event, do they feel represented and is there room for activism? Master student Sociology Iline Ceelen researched for her thesis the position of the annual Canal Parade in Amsterdam Pride. For this, she spoke with members of the LGBTQ+ community, participants in the Canal Parade and commercial partners. We talked to her to find out more about her research.

Why did you want to research Amsterdam Pride and the Canal Parade?

Personally, I appreciate the Canal Parade and that it has space in Amsterdam. During the stakeholder meetings, where the topic was presented, I felt this curiosity to look at the criticism that was presented in the media and in community meetings because there are so many controversies surrounding it.

What areas of tension surrounding the Canal Parade and Pride came up during the interviews? Did you expect these topics?

The five that came up during the research are the organisation, the responsibility of the municipality, the heteronormative power dynamics present during the event, the pride walk versus the canal parade and the internal tensions in the community, related to different factors from the lack of cohesion to the different emancipation positions around the different letters of the rainbow alphabet. Most interesting for me was the shift towards queer activism and what this means with their vision of more than just LGBTQ+ rights within the Netherlands. They look at all oppressed groups and fight for acceptance and not assimilation precisely because they are different from the majority.

You regularly hear complaints about the commercialisation of the Canal Parade. How did this issue come up in your research?

Indeed, many sites mention that commercialisation takes up too much space at the Canal Parade. The term was used in many forms. It was used to talk about the mainstreaming of the event, the takeover by "party people" and "tourists" who have no connection to the rainbow community, the lack of demonstration level of the event due to the high cost of participating on boats, but there was also a look at the positive side and the activism that happens inside of organisations and companies that motivates them to participate publicly during Pride. There is also a strength in the commercialisation that some participants shared.

Friction between the Foundation and the LGBTQ+ community emerged in your research as one of the areas of tension. Where does that tension lie, and are they working on a solution?

The community has changed a lot in recent years, for example, if we look at the Pride policy from 2011 it’s still called the "gay pride parade". The Foundation does not always hear or understand the issues that are on the table now. I see that they are trying and there is constant change, but a lot has gone wrong in recent years and fixing that will take time and a different approach. I think that there is a focus on solutions within the Foundation.

In your research, the Pride walk emerged as an event where there is more room for inclusion and activism. Why is that and why is there less room for it at the Canal Parade?

"Everyone can walk with us," participants said. The Pride Walk is accessible to everyone. The Canal Parade is much more complicated to participate in - the lottery to participate, the organisation of the boat, the funding of the boat, the requirements to participate in terms of decoration and interaction with the public etc. There are many more steps required to participate, which makes it seen as more exclusive for participants. But the Canal Parade has much more visibility and stimulates public debate, which is its strength.

Want to know more about the research? Read Iline Ceelen's Master's thesis here. Iline spoke with AT5 about her research, read the article here (In Dutch).