The label Made in Switzerland has been carrying multiple values for a long time. In international trade it is a brand for high quality, constructed on the basis of a tradition of technological know-how and merchant aplomb. In international relations Switzerland presents itself as a promoter of “good-offices” and humanitarian concerns and therefore illustrates an example of neutrality and diplomatic mediation. As a nation state, Switzerland, being one of the oldest democracies in the world, it represents the model of a “political nation”, that demonstrates cohesion and stability despite linguistic and religious differences. In all domains the label Made in Switzerland conveys a specific image, which – for some – illustrates a normative ideal, whereas – for others – it symbolized a nation where profits, interests, and personal networks define moral standards.
We understand the label Made in Switzerland as the dispositive that guides the construction and perception of a specific “Swissness”, both inside and outside the country. This raises the question of what relationship there is or is not between the label and the historical reality. Four types of relations are possible. First, the label can be an accurate image of historical Swiss specificities. Second, the generalizations carried by the label might be at the origin of a symbolic reduction of concepts, in which case the label is a myth (i.e. it is too simplistic and therefore gives an erroneous account of a complex reality). Third, usurpations of the label not only lead to re-definitions of concepts but also to utilitarian applications of an ideology that serves the interests of certain stakeholders. Fourth, by re-defining concepts, the label itself is a constituent element of the construction of a new reality.
A thorough, polysemous appreciation of the label Made in Switzerland has, to our knowledge, never been carried out, even though it appears to be a key, constituent element of the image and the reality of Switzerland. By holding this conference we want to encourage researchers to redress this deficiency. Made in Switzerland can be analyzed as a dispositive within any historical research specialization, including political, economic, social, military, and cultural history. However, we propose to go beyond a simple listing of the constituent elements of the label, in order to investigate the conditions of its emergence and perpetuation, its practical functioning, and to assess the relationship between the label and historical reality. We suggest to approach “the making of Made in Switzerland” from the following three perspectives.
MADE IN SWITZERLAND: A REALITY? - The first axis of analysis adopts a vision of Made in Switzerland as a possible reality. In this approach the conceptual discussion of the phrase is secondary to the study of its factual appearances in the history of Switzerland and the world. Aiming at a comparative historical epistemology, the scientific committee will accept presentations that cover long periods, from the early Middle Ages to the present. In order to multiply the angles of incidence, we welcome contributions about political, economic, social, cultural, military, and intellectual approaches to the label Made in Switzerland. Proposals might focus on topics such as - the invention of Swiss quality norms and the impact of their implementation on the development possibilities for the Swiss production apparatus; the making of the Swiss mercenary troops’ reputation as a high quality good; the emergence of the concept of neutrality and its exaltation to the status of a maxim; or the advertising of the banking secret as an axiom of liberty rather than a means for tax evasion.
CONSTRUCTION AND DIFFUSION OF THE MYTH - Made in Switzerland is not a given: it is socially constructed and constantly redefined according to specific historical conditions that must be closely examined. Investigations into the processes that led to the constitution and the acceptance of the myth Made in Switzerland are pertinent. How did distinct political, economic, social, geopolitical, and environmental contexts shape the acceptance of its imagined version? In what way did a consensus emerge around the constituent characteristics of Made in Switzerland? Were there concurrent versions of those characteristics accepted today and, if yes, why did they change? What role did the archeology of winding around oral tradition and biased written sources play in this genealogy of Made in Switzerland? The question of the modes of diffusion of Made in Switzerland is also of great importance. How was the label diffused on the local, national, and global levels? Can underlining the role played in such processes by political, economic, social, cultural, military, and intellectual networks help overcome the dialectic between micro and macroscopic dimensions?
FABULA FABER – The two poles of Made in Switzerland are not independent. They stand in a reciprocal causal relationship. We must therefore reverse the prospect and reflect on the ways in which the myth impacts on the (re-)construction of reality. How can a reputation of excellence become an unavoidable requirement? Through which processes can a norm be constructed and applied? In comparison to a self-fulfilling prophecy, the analysis of the representations’ incidence on reality might contribute to a richer understanding of the relation between reality and representation. What are the social functions of a perceived national knowledge, know-how, or identity community? We are particularly interested in papers dealing with the impact of the myth and the various shapes it takes according to the identity of the talking person or the addressee.
Abstracts of 250 words must be submitted before December 15th 2009. The conference will be held on October 14th – 15th 2010 in Neuchâtel. We particularly encourage PhD students and young researchers to submit proposals.
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Tél. +41 32 718 17 33
Fax: +41 32 718 17 01
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