In Search of the Authentic Nation: Landscape and National Identity in Canada and Switzerland



Abstract. While the study of nationalism and national identity has flourished in the last decade, little attention has been devoted to the conditions under which natural environments acquire significance in definitions of nationhood. This article examines the identity-forming role of landscape depictions in two polyethnic nation-states: Canada and Switzerland. Two types of geographical national identity are identified. The first – what we call the ‘nationalisation of nature’– portrays zarticular landscapes as expressions of national authenticity. The second pattern – what we refer to as the ‘naturalisation of the nation’– rests upon a notion of geographical determinism that depicts specific landscapes as forces capable of determining national identity. The authors offer two reasons why the second pattern came to prevail in the cases under consideration: (1) the affinity between wild landscape and the Romantic ideal of pure, rugged nature, and (2) a divergence between the nationalist ideal of ethnic homogeneity and the polyethnic composition of the two societies under consideration.