Event Date
Feb 23, 2012
Noémi MICHEL, University of Geneva; Switzerland
Paola Bacchetta, UC Berkeley

Paola Bacchetta and Noémi MICHEL

Image used by Noemi MICHEL in her presentation.

Image used by Noemi MICHEL in her presentation.

Image used by Noemi MICHEL in her presentation.


CRG Thursday Forum Series


Gay Poster-Posturing: Queer Racialized Disjunctions in the (French) Hom(m)o-Republic
Prof. Paola Bacchetta, Gender & Women’s Studies

This talk takes as its point of departure the assemblage constituted by the first to final drafts of the 2011 French Annual Gay Pride March poster that became, in serial mode, centers of passionate polemics around queer, racism and colonialism in France and parts of the francophone world last year. The posters’ phases of commercial to activist production, their circulations in cyberspace to streets, and their many modalities of receptions throughout, provide a glimpse into the wider politics of queer racialized disjunctions that continue to unfold in the French Hom(m)o-Republic. Through the poster-posturing of multiple constituencies, the talk will engage with the context and genealogies of disconcordant grids of intelligibility, with disjointed co-present temporal-spatialities that co-inhabit a same hétérotopie (in the sense of Foucault), with forces that pull away from queer towards lgbt national normativity and hom(m)onationalism, and with the many QPOC scattered revolts and upsurges that disallow such seemless and totalizing conversions.

(Un-)naming Racism in Switzerland: A Critical Analysis of the “Black Sheep” Poster Controversy
Noémi MICHEL, University of Geneva; Switzerland

In contemporary Switzerland, race seems to be absent from public debates. Even within public discussions on immigration, discrimination or diversity, words directly referring to race, such as “whiteness” and “blackness”, are only rarely enunciated. In this paper, I aim to explore how such a discursive configuration facilitates the reproduction of what David Theo Godlberg (2008) calls “raceless racisms” – namely the persistence of racist logics combined with the absence of explicit racial references in post-war Europe.

My discussion focuses on the recent Swiss controversy over the so called “black sheep” poster. This controversy began in 2007 when the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), a powerful populist right wing party in Switzerland, launched a political campaign by means of a controversial poster. The poster included the slogan “For More Security” accompanied by the image of several white sheep in a field composed of the colors of the Swiss flag. The image portrayed the white sheep kicking a black sheep out of their territory and supported the SVP’s campaign to collect signatures for its initiative on the automatic expulsion of “criminal foreigners”. The display of this poster gave rise to a very strong debate over public images and representations of “Swissness” and “otherness”. Some Swiss and international anti-racist associations denounced the racist message delivered by this poster,  whereas the SVP argued that it was an inoffensive image which did not refer to racial representations.

By means of a discourse analysis of the corpus of competing claims that were expressed against or in defence of the “black sheep” poster in Switzerland, the paper seeks to grasp which collective subject positions, which conception of the Swiss nation and which racialized power relations were challenged or reasserted during this controversy. The results suggest that the controversy constitutes a particularly revelatory moment for understanding the discursive production of “raceless racisms” in Switzerland. Indeed, the analysis reveals that the controversy was largely dominated by discursive logics that can bequalified as “racial evaporation” or “racial denial” following the terms of Goldberg (2008). It further demonstrates how such logics contribute at the same time to the articulation of an implicit ‘whiteness’ within ‘Swissness’ and to the delegitimization of antiracist discourses – in sum to the reproduction of unnamed racisms.

Co-sponsored by Muslim Identities and Cultures