The Author as Policy Officer: Dutch Literary Policy From Below (1960s-today)


Bringing together Cultural Policy Studies, Literary Studies, field theory, and posture theory for the first time, this project explores the vital role of authors in shaping Dutch literary policies since the 1960s. A focus on literature is in itself new to Cultural Policy Studies, but more importantly this project introduces a bottom-up approach to policy. This approach leads to a better understanding of the agency of individuals in policy systems they are subject to.
My hypothesis is that authors’ agency has diminished over the decades. In the 1960s-1970s, writers influenced policy directly via protests and via Dutch Foundation for Literature (Nederlands Letterenfonds), which was largely managed by authors during these years. The more (neo-)liberal climate since the 1980s and the professionalisation of DFL caused the gradual reduction of the authors’ role. By analysing many unrevealed sources (such as grant applications, interviews, opinion articles and novels about policies), this project investigates how authors attempted to maximise their influence in the ever changing cultural-political climate. The project analyses both the acts and texts authors used, and the attitudes they developed in their policymaking role.
Dutch literary policy is a fruitful case study for such a bottom-up approach. Firstly, DFL assumes an intermediary position between the literary field and the political field. Therefore, it has given authors many opportunities to influence policies via advisory boards. Secondly, DFL is among the world’s oldest cultural policy foundations, which enables a study of authors’ formative policymaking role over an extensive period of time.
My long-term interpretation not only leads to new insights in Dutch authorial and literary history. The bottom-up perspective also helps us to understand how important contributions of individuals are to a flourishing policy climate in general. This idea is more urgent than ever, now that European public sectors are constantly reorganised from above.


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. L.J. Ham

Affiliated with

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen, Departement Talen, Literatuur en Communicatie

Team members

Dr. L.J. Ham


01/02/2018 to 31/12/2021