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Culturalist discourses on inclusion and exclusion: the Swiss citizenship debate1


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    This paper was first presented to the Young Scholar's Panel at the 2006 Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists in Bristol. I would like to thank Steven Vertovec, Ralph Grillo, Anne Juhasz and one anonymous Social Anthropology reviewer for their constructive comments on early drafts.


‘No pizza without migrants.’ This kind of slogan was used in a campaign in Switzerland in which people of migrant background fought for facilitated access to Swiss citizenship. By emphasising their contributions and their ‘cultural’ belonging to Switzerland, the political activists essentialised ‘the second generation’ as well integrated young professionals. Their campaign was countered by right-wing parties with posters showing Swiss identity cards with photos of Osama bin Laden to demonstrate what kind of people might become Swiss citizens if the laws changed. This article discusses the kind of culturalist discourse used by both, those who struggle against political exclusion and those who promote this exclusion. It takes a historical perspective and shows that culturalist discourses against migrants have been there for a long time, but the content and the arena of contestation change over time.