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

The Swiss pilgrimage to Lourdes

This research was conducted betwwen 2009 and 2011 with Laurent Amiotte-Suchat 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 pilgraime’s staff that takes care of the « sick people », as they are called in Lourdes (mostly eldery 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.

The Pilgrimage to the African Saints

This research (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 missonaries for African immigrants in Switzerland. It honors Christian martyrs of Egyptian origin. Through an analysis of the pilgraimage « 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 Jörg Stolz, we gave an overview of current trends, challenges ans strategies within reformed churches in Switzerland.
The results were published in a book in German, that was later translated to French.