Gijsbert Oonk

Gijsbert Oonk holds the Jean Monnet Chair of Migration, Citizenship and Identity.

Current projects

History Sport and Nation

Dr. Oonk is project leader of a new (2016) interdisciplinary research project on History, Sport and Nation, which is titled 'Sport and National Identity: Changing Citizenship and the Global Battle for Talent'. The central research question in this project is: How and why did the number of migrant athletes change over time and how did this shape the debate on the ‘nation’ in the state and citizenship? We will focus on nationality transfers of talented athletes in football and the Olympics. The project solidifies interdisciplinary collaboration between three departments: the Department of History  and the Department of Media and Communication as well as the Department of Sociology contribute to this new and innovative project.

Key publications

Gijs van Campenhout, Jacco van Sterkenburg & Gijsbert Oonk (2018) Who Counts as a Migrant Footballer? A Critical Reflection and Alternative Approach to Migrant Football Players on National Teams at the World Cup, 1930–2018, The International Journal of the History of Sport, 35:11, 1071-1090, DOI: 10.1080/09523367.2019.1581769

    Although there is a common belief that more footballers are representing countries other than their native ones in recent World Cup editions, a historical overview on migrant footballers representing national teams is lacking. To fill this gap, a database consisting of 10,137 football players who participated in the World Cup (1930–2018) was created. To count the number of migrant footballers in national teams over time, we critically reflect on the term migrant and the commonly used foreign-born proxies in mainstream migration research. A foreign-born approach to migrants overlooks historical-geopolitical changes like the redrawing of international boundaries and colonial relationships, and tends to shy away from citizenship complexities, leading to an overestimation of the number of migrant footballers in a database. Therefore, we offer an alternative approach that through historical contextualization with an emphasis on citizenship, results in more accurate data on migrant footballers – contextual-nationality approach. By comparing outcomes, a foreign-born approach seems to indicate an increase in the volume of migrant footballers since the mid-1990s, while the contextual-nationality approach illustrates that the presence of migrant footballers is primarily a reflection of trends in international migration.

    Keywords: Migrationcitizenshiphistorydatabaseinternational football

    Joost Jansen, Gijsbert Oonk & Godfried Engbersen (2018) Nationality swapping in the Olympic field: towards the marketization of citizenship?, Citizenship Studies, 22:5, 523-539, DOI: 10.1080/13621025.2018.1477921

      Nationality swapping in sports is commonly assumed to be a rapidly expanding practice that is indicative of the marketization of citizenship. Sports are said to have become wholesale markets in which talent is being traded for citizenship. In this article, we seek to empirically explore such claims by analysing 167 athletes who have competed for two different countries in the Summer Olympic Games. It seems that most switches occurred after the 1990s. Then, following a citizenship as a claims-making approach, we introduce the work of Bourdieu so as to connect citizenship as both legal status and practice with normative claims. The analysis reveals that the practice of nationality switching is shaped by structural conditions of the Olympic field. First, a complex realm of citizenship laws and regulations produces conditions under which athletes make legitimate claims to citizenship. Second, through a mechanism of reverberative causation, prior migrations are often echoed in contemporary nationality swapping . Only a limited number of athletes acquired citizenship via the explicit market principle we call jus talenti. Claiming that instrumental nationality swapping is indicative of the marketization of citizenship obscures the complex interplay between structures of and practices within the Olympic field.

      KEYWORDS: Jus talentimarketization of citizenshipnationality swappingOlympic Gamesreverberative causation

      Sport and Anti-Semitism

      It is Feyenoord’s explicit ambition to eliminate anti-Semitic hate speech from their stadium. In order to do so Feyenoord invites penalised supporters to develop knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust through an educational programme. In this PhD project (Jasmin Seijbel) analyses Feyenoord’s educational programme; it’s opportunities and limitations. She investigates which histories are told and the intended and unintended short- and long-term effects of the programme.

      Former projects

      South Asians in Diaspora

      This project, funded by the Dutch Foundation of Tropical research (NWO/WOTRO), resulted in a monograph: Settled Strangers: Asian Business Elites in East Africa 1800-2000 (Sage Publication 2013).

      Oonk also edited the book Global Indian Diasporas: Exploring Trajectories of Migration and Theory (Amsterdam University Press, 2007). In this volume the contributors critically review the concept of diaspora. This volume is available as an open access publication.

      Societal outreach

      Gijsbert Oonk is academic advisor of EUROCLIO, especially of the project: Football makes history.

      The overall aim of the project is to contribute to the reduction of the number of people at risk of social exclusion across Europe by pursuing these specific objectives:

      • Promote diversity, non-discrimination and equality, including gender equality;
      • Innovate formal and non-formal learning leading to social, civic and intercultural competences and critical thinking;
      • Support the professional development of educators and youth workers and build the capacity to develop and implement innovative teaching methods;
      • Engage cultural heritage for all by accessing the histories, memories and legacies residing in football history in transnational perspectives on all levels;
      • Raise public awareness on the role of learning for social inclusion and increase the sharing of innovative practices across the continent.

      Media presence


      • Geef atleten een flexibel sportpaspoort, Trouw, zaterdag 14-09-2019, 28-29. 
      • Bij succes is iedereen Nederlander; interview in NRC 21-10-2019
      • Voor wie juichen we eigenlijk? Interview met Geert Maarse bij Studio Erasmus, Theater Rotterdam; 18-11-2019


      • NPO 1 Nieuws en Co. Thursday 27-09-2018. Duitsland organiseert het Europees kampioenschap voetbal 2022.
      • ‘L'Inde, puissance méconnue en Afrique,’ interview met TV5Monde,; 10 august 2018.
      • Het WK voetbal als spiegel van nationale identiteit, One World, Blog op 20/7 2018.
      • Teaser voor gammadocenten: Een voorbeeld van samenwerken aan goede historische casusses in de klas, Magazine voor het Alfa & Gammaonderwijs; juni 2018. Interview pagina 20-21 (samen met Maria Grever).
      • Sporters die ‘verdwijnen’ op toernooien: niet de beker maar vluchten als doel; NPO Radio 1 26-06-2018. Ook op de nieuwssite.
      • NOS Nieuwsuur: het Marokkaanse Migratie elftal; interview 14-06-2018.
      • Hyperdiversiteit wordt nieuwe norm WK voetbal, opiniestuk in de Volkskrant; 14-06-2018 (samen met Gijs van Campenhout).
      • Interview met Hassan Bahara: Achtergrond WK voetbal
      • Op dit WK is 13 procent voetballers geboren noch getogen in land waarvoor ze spelen – hoe kan dat? Volkskrant online; 14-6-2018.
      • Radio 1 journaal Interview: Migratie en het WK voetbal; 14-06-2018, 6-7 uur.
      • Interview in De Volkskrant: Reportage Marokkaanse voetbal
      • Het Marokkaanse voetbalelftal; hoe de loyaliteit van de Leeuwen van de Atlas van twee kanten betwist wordt; 9-06- 2018.


      Portrait picture of Gijsbert Oonk
      +31 10 408 2496
      Van der Goot Building
      Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
      3062 PA

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