Performing Swissness

Institutions, discourse and social transformation
Multilingualism in institutions and society
Project management:

Vincent Kaufmann, Uni St. Gallen

01.2010 to 12.2013

Alfonso Del Percio, Arthur Poget



Swiss National Science Foundation, independent pure research grant, project no. 100012 129885

Work in our project “Performing Swissness: institutions, discourse and social transformation” focuses on ways in which discourse practices at Swiss institutions for culture, tourism and economic development construct a particular image of Switzerland. The project also explores the role of social and economic transformation when (re-)defining what “Swissness” constitutes.

In a world marked by globalisation and the weakening impact of national sovereignty in economic and political matters, ways of constructing national identity have changed significantly: entirely new discursive settings that produce alternative discourse on Switzerland have begun to emerge. Although these settings are situated within institutions that are partially or entirely financed by the state – and therefore fulfil a public mission – they at the same time act according to the logic of new public management.

We have chosen to alyse Swiss Tourism, OSEC and Pro Helvetia because they are institutions created to represent and promote Switzerland at home and abroad. This status provides an ideal basis for investigating how sectorial promotion is planned and realised, and for inquiring into the challenges these establishments face.

The institutional ethnography in these organisations enables a description of the institutional, economic and political contexts within which the promotion of Switzerland is envisaged, as well as an identification of the institutional and discursive practices used to ensure the creation of a distinct “Swissness”. It moreover allows us to demonstrate what – and for whom – the consequences of these practices are. Finally, critical analysis of discursive constructs and ways of promoting Switzerland lays the basis for discussing emerging tension between traditional identification factors and their commodification in late modernism.