Michel, Noémi

Sheepology: The Postcolonial Politics of Raceless Racism in Switzerland
2016

Discussing racism and its colonial genealogy remains difficult in contemporary Switzerland. This article addresses the politics of racism’s name-ability at the crossroads of studies of ‘postcolonial Switzerland’ and ‘raceless racism’ in continental Europe. The former highlight Switzerland’s self-conception as outside colonialism. The latter emphasize the complexities of Euro-racism, in particular its production through the absence of explicit racial references. Drawing on postcolonial discourse-analytic methodology, I explore the famous case of the ‘sheep poster’ that supported the far right-wing Swiss People’s Party campaign in 2007 and triggered an important controversy around legitimate public images of ‘Swissness’ and ‘difference’. The first section analyses the (untold) history of colonial racialised discourses that are conveyed by the poster. The second and third sections comprise a discourse analysis of the public claims that were expressed by various actors against or in defence of the poster. I show that the controversy consisted of a struggle between three antagonistic articulations of ‘Swissness’ and ‘difference’, namely between an antiracist discourse, and anti-exclusionary discourse, and defensive interventions. As the two latter discourses became hegemonic at the expense of the anti-racist critique, this struggle reasserted and renewed a regime of raceless racism, revealing both specificities and commonalities between the Swiss case and the broader context of postcolonial Europe.