Race, nation and religion

Of particular interest to me are:

  • how national identity is produced and reproduced in religious events
  • how discourses on nation, race or religion participate in the construction of collective identity and exclusion
  • how events are structured around collective identity, in their spatial, visual and discursive organization

Welfare and coercion

As part of the Swiss National Research Programme 76 « Welfare and Coercion » (2018-2023), I worked on Véronique Mottier’s research project to uncover processes of restorative justice. The project looks at compulsory social measures and placements carried out by Swiss authorities before 1981. This includes forcible administrative detention and child placement and affected mostly poorer, marginalised, racialised groups as well as single mothers. We were specifically interested in the way restaurative justice processes in Switzerland focussed on some group of victims and left others in the background.

Mottier Véronique, Ballif Edmée, Hirschberg Mairena & Simone Schneider (in press, 2023), « Du trauma individuel à l’action politique: la participation de victimes de mesures de placement et d’internement administratif au processus national de justice restaurative », in Grob Alexander, Knüsel René & Véronique Mottier (Eds) Coercition et placement extrafamilial en Suisse : effets sur les personnes concernées et conséquences sociales, Bâle/Berlin : Schwabe Verlag.

The Pilgrimage to the African Saints

This research project (2009-2012) analysed the organisation of a local pilgrimage in order to understand how racial boundaries and national identity are reproduced through such an event. The yearly Pilgrimage to the African Saints was created in 2002 by catholic missionaries for African immigrants in Switzerland. It honors Christian martyrs of Egyptian origin. Through an analysis of the pilgrimage « in the making », I showed how the event is made « African » in the eyes of the organisers and the public. Through the rebranding local martyrs as African, the local church builds a connection between its origins and new immigrants, and seeks to reinvent its future.
This ethnographic research forms the basis on my Master thesis and of an article published in Ethnographiques.org: « Les Africains, origine et avenir de l’Eglise catholique suisse ? Réflexions sur les discours des organisateurs du Pèlerinage aux Saintes et Saints d’Afrique à St-Maurice« .

Reformed churches in Switzerland

In this research project with prof. Jörg Stolz (University of Lausanne, 2008-2010), we gave an overview of current trends, challenges ans strategies within reformed churches in Switzerland.
The results were published in Die Zukunft der Reformierten (2010, TVZ), that was later translated to French: L’Avenir des Réformés (2011, Labor et Fides).

The Swiss pilgrimage to Lourdes

This research was conducted between 2009 and 2011 with Laurent Amiotte-Suchet and Alexandre Grandjean. We conducted participant observation within the Swiss pilgrimage to Lourdes, during which 2000 Swiss catholics spend a week in prayer and ceremonies. We enrolled as « hospitaliers » and « hospitalières », that is as member of the pilgrimage’s staff that takes care of the « sick people », as they are called in Lourdes (mostly elderly people in fact) and help them in their daily activities (meals, church service, shopping). I was specifically interested in the social construction of the category of « sick people » in Lourdes, through spatial organisation and interactions.