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Heritage Regimes and the State

 | 
Regina F. Bendix
, 
Aditya Eggert
, 
Arnika Peselmann

States and their ‘Thing': Selection Processes, Administrative Structures, and Expert Knowledge

Identifying “Living Traditions” in Switzerland: Re-enacting Federalism through the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Florence Graezer Bideau

Texte intégral

1 Introduction

  • 1 This substitution was effectuated in order to promote better understanding amongst the media, the g (...)
  • 2 This research was carried out within the framework of a larger project entitled “Intangible Cultura (...)

1A recent headline in a national French-language newspaper, “Yodeling or multimedia: which culture does Switzerland need?”(Fournier and Dufour 2011), is interestingly emblematic of what has happened since 2008, the year Switzerland ratified the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. During this period, federal and cantonal officials worked with experts and advisors to prepare the public launching, on September 2, 2010, of a national program for identifying “living traditions,” the official translation of the technical term “intangible cultural heritage” (ICH1). The process of identifying Swiss ICH is still under way and, through participant observation, I have had the opportunity to investigate the mechanisms and repercussions of Switzerland’s ICH inventory.2

  • 3 Cantonal propositions were first submitted to the federal administration (September 2010–March 2011 (...)
  • 4 “Rösti” is the Swiss dialect term for hash browns, historically eaten as a breakfast food in German (...)

2The newspaper article cited above clearly reflects the current political debate over the new law for funding culture, scheduled to come into force at the beginning of 2012; but by defining Swiss culture (“yodeling or multimedia”) as a choice between the dichotomous terms of tradition and modernity, and by proposing a functionalist approach to culture (“which culture does Switzerland need?”) it obscures what is really at stake in the federalist context. I argue here that the question should be rephrased as “who is deciding?” (the federal government or the 26 cantons), rather than “what is decided?” (traditional or modern expressions of Swiss culture), with the sub-question, “who are the legitimate experts” on questions of culture? Or, more generally, what role does expertise play in the constitution of Switzerland’s relations to its “living traditions?” This paper explores the political and bureaucratic mechanisms of Swiss federalism that have played a key role in shaping the national program to constitute an inventory of Swiss ICH, and analyzes the making of ICHat the federal, cantonal and local levels. Specifically, the actors I will be examining include the federal government and its administration, national institutions, such as Pro Helvetia (the Swiss Arts Council), the 26 cantons’ cultural administrations, and finally, the collection of experts of various stripes who have contributed to these procedures. In a first section, I will briefly introduce Swiss cultural policy for a better understanding of the particular federalist context within which it operates, notably, the subsidiarity principle. Next, I will examine the mechanisms for identifying ICH, designed to operate in three steps over a period of two years.3 At the end of this process in 2012, three different types of lists will have been produced, covering the whole country: 26 cantonal inventories listing 387 propositions; an indicative list of 167 cantonal propositions of national interest (see Appendix); and a final selection of 6–12 items to be submitted to the UNESCO Representative List of the ICH of Humanity. The first steps in this process having recently been completed, we can already see certain key issues and tendencies emerging. Thus, in the final part of this paper, I will address questions about the artificiality of territorial divisions and historical cultural differences, famously called the “Röstigraben,”4 the sensitive place of culture within a federal state, and the role of experts in the process. My conclusion will emphasize the praxis of federalism and its reaffirmation through cultural expertise.

2 Federalism in Action: the “Subsidiarity Principle”

  • 5 “Office fédéral de la Culture” in French, “Bundesamt für Kultur” in German.
  • 6 Assemblée fédérale de la Confédération suisse (2009): Loi fédérale sur l’encouragement de la cultur (...)
  • 7 The Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia, a federally funded cultural foundation, also plays a key role (...)

3The separation of powers in the area of culture – between the 26 cantons that form the Swiss Confederation and the federal government – is inscribed in the Federal Constitution (see Article 69, also called the “cultural article,” Clottu 1975). This article gives full responsibility in cultural affairs to the 26 cantons. The federal government is responsible only for national aspects of culture, such as guaranteeing the respect of cultural and linguistic diversity or subsidizing the Swiss film industry, national library, national archives, and national museums. Its principal organ, the Federal Office for Culture (FOC)5 is charged with the task of formulating cultural policy (for example, by drafting the proposed federal law governing the funding of culture6) and of promoting culture through federal, cantonal and local institutions, both public and private.7 For their part, the principal actors, the 26 Swiss cantons, are responsible for promoting, funding and managing culture within their respective territories.

4As applied to heritage policy, the Swiss Constitution and the subsidiarity principle imply that the FOC establishes a framework for the application of the UNESCO Conventions while leaving their actual implementation to the cantons. However, as can be expected, the task of establishing this framework involved many other actors, and gave the federal government a considerable degree of discretion in defining its content. Adopting the “participative principle” that has become virtually mandatory in international institutions today (Gradis 2008, Renz 2008, Vitali 2008), the FOC began its work by assigning the task of organizing meetings between parties concerned (administrators, cultural associations and other “bearers of ICH,” scholars, journalists, politicians, etc.) to the Swiss UNESCO Commission. The institutional name given to these meetings was the “Swiss Forum for Intangible Cultural Heritage.” Some initiatives from NGOs wellestablished in several UNESCO commissions were proposed (Leimgruber 2010). However, these methodological propositions for constituting the national inventory8 were not accepted, although they were useful for reflecting on the process by raising questions about the notion of authenticity (Bortolotto 2007, Gonseth and Hertz 2008) and about the length of time necessary to qualify as a “bearer” of Swiss ICH (Camp 2006, Leimgruber 2008). Parallel to this participative procedure and in conformity with the Swiss legislative process, the Federal Council9 issued a statement on the promotion of culture, addressed to the federal legislature and relevant cultural institutions (Message relatif à la Convention pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine culturel immatériel, Conseil fédéral suisse 2007). It emphasized the leadership of the FOC in decision-making around norms and procedures for the drawing up of inventories and the responsibility of the 26 cantons for identifying the relevant items and submitting them to the FOC (Graezer Bideau 2010).

3 The Mechanisms for Constituting Inventories

  • 10 “Guidelines for establishing a list of living traditions in Switzerland,” adopted by the FOC steeri (...)

5According to this federal system, the 26 cantons were free to invent their own methodologies for the construction of their inventories, while respecting the framework of a centralized inventory project throughout the country. Following the division of labor imposed by the Constitution, the FOC had the role of assisting the 26 cantons by developing relevant selection criteria. The guidelines10 describing how to carry out this common project were discussed in meetings involving both the federal and cantonal levels (the FOC and a group of experts made up of cantonal officials, experts engaged by the cantons, some of whom were academics or members of civil society). Following what has been identified as the “spirit of the Convention” (Bortolotto 2008a, 2008b), the FOC emphasized the need for bottom-up procedures in the constitution of these cantonal inventories, the aim being to come up with a final list of approximately 160 Swiss items supported by “civil society.”

  • 11 As of April 2011 (closure of the website), 102 propositions were posted on the website by Swiss cit (...)

6The FOC, however, was also responsible for establishing the “indicative list” of Swiss ICH (the official name for the national inventory), taking into account those elements of ICH that the cantons proposed in their inventories (around 15 propositions each, giving a total of 390). In order to follow the spirit of the Convention (once again!) and to emphasize the participative principle of Swiss democracy, the FOC created an open website in September 2010 where citizens were encouraged to make their own propositions, to be discussed and taken into account as appropriate.11 In reality, as became apparent just after the public launching of the program, in order to accelerate the process and come up with a list by February 2011 (i.e. five months later), top-down procedures also became necessary. The tight deadline, the need for a coherent and comparable methodology between the 26 cantons, and the “respect for cultural diversity,” a fundamental value in the Swiss Confederation, were finally major arguments put forward by the FOC for encouraging a top-down procedure.

  • 12 The German-and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland were covered by colleagues, respectively Karin (...)

7Based on my participant observation of this procedure, especially in French-speaking Switzerland,12 I will focus on some aspects of the bottom-up and top-down mechanisms that regularly entered into conflict with each other. Three issues will illustrate the particularities and complexities of the Swiss system.

4 Artificial Territorial Divisions and the Reality of the “Röstigraben”

8The first question raised by this inventory process concerns the artificial territorial divisions imposed by the fact that the federal administration was obliged to respect the subsidiary principle and general cultural sensitivity to intercantonal “balance.” Each canton was asked to propose the same number of items for its inventory, regardless of its size, demography, landscape, or economic profile. As has already been mentioned, cantons had the choice of a civil-society “participative” approach or an expert-based methodology. Unsurprisingly, the 26 cantons proceeded in different ways with the result that the data collected were quite heterogeneous in nature, reflecting a variety of methods (bottom-up and top-down) and understandings.

  • 13 These collective inventories are circumscribed in geographical areas, such as central Switzerland ( (...)
  • 14 Individual inventories were submitted by Bern, Fribourg, Genève, Jura, Neuchâtel, Ticino, Vaud, and (...)
  • 15 Note that the French expression for “original cantons” is “cantons primitifs.”

9One major distinction to emerge from this process was between collective and individual approaches: Some cantons joined together to create their regional lists (collective inventories)13 while others took independent measures for identifying local items (individual inventories).14 This difference was often translated into a difference between “traditional” and “modern” communities, and was regularly observed and commented on. As one French-speaking cultural affairs person put it: “No wonder the German-speaking cantons work together; they have done so since the creation of our country,” referring to the historical (and mythical) founding of the first Swiss confederacy by the three “original cantons”15 uniting to combat the domination of the Habsburgs in 1291. This discourse is noteworthy in that it simplifies the Swiss cultural landscape, which has conventionally been described as a system of cross-cutting ties (Lipset 1959); it operates to overdetermine the differences between French-and German-speaking areas, while muting those between urban and rural, Catholic and Protestant, elite and popular, industrialized and artisanal, as if these different forms of social affiliation all worked in an isomorphic fashion.

10After discussions between cantonal and federal experts, more flexibility on the number and location of items was introduced into the guidelines, with the following results:

  • The number of propositions allowed per canton tripled (from 5 to 15);

    • 16 Romansh, the fourth national language, was included within the German-speaking part of Switzerland (...)

    the size of linguistic areas became more relevant than the 26 units (with more items from the French and German regions, and fewer from the Italian region (80 versus 30);16 and

  • items could be located on the border of cantons, such as paper-cutting (Vaud and Fribourg) or the Fête-Dieu (Fribourg, Wallis and Appenzell Innerrhoden), or over a larger area including two countries, such as woodcarving crafts (Wallis, Ticino and the Aosta Valley in Italy).

  • 17 This first round of cantonal propositions applied the second version of the “Guidelines” published (...)

11Nonetheless, studying the cantonal propositions from the first round,17 one can observe that these amendments did not really reduce the differences and discrepancies between cantons. On the contrary, the logics of distinction that historically made up Switzerland were re-formulated and even reinforced.

  • 18 In the minds of some commentators, the Napoleonic conquest (that created the short-lived Helvetic R (...)
  • 19 The “Landsgemeinde” is a popular assembly of eligible men and, since 1971, women that directs the a (...)

12Of these, the most significant was the cultural difference between the French-and German-speaking regions of Switzerland, emblematized by the “Röstigraben.” The participants in the expert meetings I observed regularly called attention to the differences they perceived between Swiss-German and Swiss-French cantons, especially regarding the use of scientific expertise. The French-speaking cantons were perceived as adopting both a more radical and a more bureaucratic approach, composed of both critical distance and compliance with the guidelines laid down by the federal government.18 The German-speaking cantons seemed to reflect a perception based on “participative democracy,” characterized by a strong desire for independence from federal instances combined with a high level of participation, symbolized by the institution of the “Landsgemeinde.”19 Cantonal attitudes regarding the number of items submitted to the FOC also varied: French-speaking cantons basically respected the federal guidelines (Geneva 9; Vaud 14; Neuchâtel 8) while the German-speaking cantons less so (Schwyz 43, 9items specific to the canton and 34 representative of the regional inventory; Uri 36, 3 specific to the canton and 33 of the regional inventory) (Bundesamt für Kultur and Hochschule Luzern 2011; Graezer Bideau 2012).

13Other important divisions related to landscape, economy and religion; for instance, urban, industrialized or Protestant cantons proposed fewer traditions than rural or Catholic ones. These “less touched” areas tended to be those with elaborate religious practices (the carnivals, processions, celebration days, and rituals studied by Swiss folklore specialists since the 19th century [Geiger and Weiss 1962, Hugger 1990, Waldis and Wendling 2002]), or with a higher exposure to tourism. They provided items more in accordance with a shared notion of folk tradition than the Calvinist or Zwinglist cities (Geneva or Zurich), which proposed more conceptual and unusual items (the “Spirit of Geneva,” for example, or newspaper caricatures and comics, joke culture, contemporary dance [Ballet Béjart] and political cabaret [Dadaism], etc.).

  • 20 For instance, Italian tradition (San Giuseppe-Tag in Laufenburg) and Jewish heritage are also propo (...)

14A further interesting division concerned demography and a focus on indigenous versus exogenous populations. Very few cantons made proposals mentioning immigrant groups who also contribute to Switzerland, although the federal guidelines made specific reference to these communities. An exception that proves the rule: Wallis proposed inscribing “Italianità” on its list to acknowledge the active presence of Italians in this canton since the 13th century. In the final lists, only a few categories of “outsiders” were proposed in some areas (big cities close to an international border or in a circumscribed region)20 while others were conspicuously absent: for example, stigmatized and unrecognized former Yugoslavian and African communities.

15Finally, although flexibility allowed finding ad hoc solutions to reflect present realities and attested to the efficiency of the federal system, this national inventory also simply demonstrated the highly conventional notion of ICH that this exercise inherited. Apparently, heritage carries with it its own heritage!

Figure 1: Map of inventories in Switzerland (Graezer Bideau and Munafò 2012)

5 Which “Culture” for which Switzerland?

  • 21 See Bourget 2011, Dufour 2011a, 2011b, Stevan 2011.

16The sensitive place of culture in a federal state is the second issue I wish to discuss here. Culture is sensitive in all national contexts, of course, but the federalist framework, based on the right to cultural difference within a single national territory, formats underlying tensions in particular ways. To whom does culture belong (the cantons or federal institutions, the elite or so-called “civil society,” urban or rural communities, industrialized populations or artisans) and who is defining it (federal, cantonal and local institutions, or “bearers of tradition”)? These are the two key questions this process of inventorization inevitably forefronts. Several national French-language newspapers did not hesitate to raise them.21

  • 22 Initiatives (100,000 signatures) allow citizens to petition for introducing amendments to the Const (...)
  • 23 The notion of “social peace” (“paixsociale”) is central to the Swiss political imaginary. It refers (...)
  • 24 At the present time, very little discussion has occurred over the question of how this procedure wi (...)
  • 25 In May 2011, the steering committee decided to change the use of these cantonal “portraits.” Nearly (...)

17By deciding to call ICH “living tradition in Switzerland” (N.B. not “of Switzerland”), the federal administration emphasized the political connotation of such items, while producing a national list that thousands of Swiss communities could identify with. They were also aware of the very high percentage of citizens belonging to cultural associations (ten percent of the population), a significant factor for analyzing the perceived need to encourage a “balanced” inventory. The notion of “balance” translates a worry on the part of federal and cantonal officials that an enormous and chaotic flow of propositions from so-called “civil society,” even political initiatives to introduce amendments to the Constitution,22 would arrive at their doorsteps, demands that they would be in a difficult position to refuse in the name of “cultural peace.”23 A compromise was reached to resolve this potential problem by sorting items into three types. A very selective list of 6–12 items for international purposes (UNESCO),24 a “representative” but exclusive list of around 160 items to be used as a national platform, and numerous residual cantonal “portraits” of the 387 propositions on which local items excluded from the national or international lists could figure, satisfying, it is hoped, the “bearers of tradition” who proposed them.25 In addition, for those really “left out,” there remains the opportunity to post their propositions on the official website of the national program!

18Establishing three types of lists is one thing, selecting items for each list (through inclusion and exclusion) is another (Khaznadar 2004, Hafstein 2009). Indeed, this tension reflects the permanent overlap between technical and political tasks inherent in Swiss cultural policy. In the second step of the process, for instance, on June 15, 2010, the FOC steering committee sent an official letter to the 26 cantons to inform them of the recommended items retained for the indicative list. Items were organized in three categories: of local/cantonal, of regional or of national importance, for each list proposed by the cantons. For the cross-cantonal items, the FOC steering committee instructed the cantons concerned to negotiate and find a “well-balanced” solution to satisfy all cantons concerned within a deadline of three weeks. Thus, the canton of Wallis had to enter into a discussion with the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Luzern in order to find a solution to the fact that these three cantons proposed exemplary representations of a Corpus Christi occasion called “Fête-Dieu à Savièse.” Following this brief period of negotiation, federal recommended items were approved by the cantonal administrations, which were then charged with producing complete files for the national data bank by September of the same year, and in accordance with the criteria defined by the guidelines (Graezer Bideau 2011).

19Another example demonstrates well the entanglement between scientific and political tasks. During the second step of the process, experts from the FOC steering committee decided to reorganize the 367 cantonal propositions. Originally listed in alphabetical order with a short argument for its location and its exclusion or inclusion in the national list, each item was sorted into one of the five domains of the ICH UNESCO scheme (Art. 2): oral traditions and expressions, performing arts, social practices, ritual and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, or traditional craftsmanship. These categories were to serve as guides for those items that had not been unanimously accepted in the first examination. They were also to help guide the expert committee in making recommendations to the cantons for further information they were to submit (more precision, historical documents, consent from the “bearers of culture”) and for the constitution of intercantonal or regional items.

  • 26 See the internal document of this meeting entitled Eingaben der Kantone (May 10, 2011).

20It quickly appeared to the FOC expert group that in order to better represent Swiss cultural and social realities, this list of a few hundred items needed to be reorganized by including new categories of practice and tradition that did not fit within the limits of the five UNESCO categories. In their eyes, creating a new classification of items would allow them to highlight relevant patterns of practice that disappeared in the standardized UNESCO overview of Swiss living traditions.26 They thus put forward Swiss particularities such as “Alpine culture,” “wine-making and harvest festivals,” “medicinal plants,” “popular instrumental music,” “popular music performance,” “children’s parades and festivities,” “political institutions,” “corporations and associations,” and “local annual festivals.” The group then proceeded to classify troublesome items in such a way as to highlight their “representativeness” in relation to Swiss culture in the light of these finer categories of “living tradition.” This was particularly the case for activities regarding children, teenagers or young adults. Most of them were selected by cantons to confirm the importance of this category of the population for nation-building (graduation ceremonies, for example, in Geneva, Vaud and Fribourg; youth ritual festivities [Vaud] or festivals [Aargau and Solothurn]; the Saint-Nicolas parade in Fribourg; or the St-Gallen children celebrations).

21Some propositions required re-arrangement within the process framework:

  • Twelve elements related to alpine culture (from cheese-making to Alpine transhumance to religious rituals) were combined to compose a category entitled “alpine economy.” But in order to better represent the different parts of the territory and different exemplary practices, this global category was then reworked into three local propositions: Gruyère alpine economy (Fribourg), Alpine festivities during the summer (“älplerschilbli” in Central Switzerland) and Alpine lotteries for the right to organize transhumancerelated festivities (“Alpverlosung” in Obwald); and

  • seven practices related to textiles (artisanal or industrial lacework, silk, cross-stitch, embroidery) finally produced, after reorganization for the national list, just three items: lacework (Neuchâtel); embroidery (St-Gallen) and silk ribbon production (Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft and Aargau, Solothurn).

22Other attempts to bring together local proposals into an overarching category were not as successful, however. This is particularly the case of two traditions with a significant symbolic importance to the Swiss.

    • 27 Almost all of these festivities are Catholic.

    Carnival festivals,” practiced in many regions27 across the country, were not grouped into a general category. Arguments affirming the particularity of each of these expressions – the Basel city’s carnival, the Carnival in Central Switzerland and in the Jura, the Rabandàn (Ticino), the Tschäggättä in Lötschental (Valais) – were convincing enough that the expert group decided to include each of these local expressions separately in the representative list of Swiss living traditions.

  • Experts also failed in combining different kinds of popular musical performance together into a single category of “yodeling.” Instead of becoming a large, dominant item in the final Swiss inventory, two distinct categories resulted from negotiations between the FOC and cantonal experts: Popular music performance and yodeling (“juuz”) in central Switzerland, and popular music performance and natural yodeling in Appenzell (Appenzell Innerrhoden and Aargau) and in Toggenburg (St-Gallen).

  • 28 “Jass” is a trick-taking card game and is played in most Alemanic-speaking areas of Europe.

23In sum, we can observe a double logic in this Swiss mechanism of inventory production: Some items emerged smoothly from the cantonal propositions, often related to cantonal territories, while other items did not appear spontaneously or were simply forgotten because no national category had been invented into which to fit them – “the ritual of eating cheese fondue,” for example, or playing “Jass” (card game),28 taking part in associative life, participating in consensual culture and direct democracy, innovating in the area of graphic design and typography, practicing target-shooting, et cetera. Thus, to enrich the list in relation to these realities, and reflecting what the expert group imagined to be expectations amongst the general public, the experts themselves were asked to produce a certain number of items that had not been submitted by the cantons individually or in groups.

24More importantly, however, and somewhat ironically, the invention of new categories thought to be more useful in capturing the particularities of Swiss culture as a whole allowed for a better apportioning of items between the various cantons according to criteria such as “representativeness” or “exemplarity.” Here again, the overlap between technical and political tasks resulted in a wide range of actors having to work together to produce, with the help of cantonal experts and local bearers of traditions, data about ICH that reflected neither the point of view of the cantons, nor that of the federal government, but a kind of compromise in the name of abstract notions, cultural stereotypes and an imagined community invented by the expert group for the purposes at hand.

6 The Making of Cultural Expertise

25As appears from this example and has been attested in the literature on Switzerland’s cultural policies (Moeschler 2003, Surdez and Pidoux 2007), Switzerland lacks a tool that many neighboring states have at their ready disposition: centralized expertise for cultural matters. While the history of this state of affairs is complex and goes beyond the purview of this paper, its consequences in this instance are clear: “Swiss culture” is characterized by heterogeneity, reflecting the socioeconomic and historical conditions of each of its cantons.

  • 29 For a better understanding of the Swiss case, I decided to choose the term of “ethnology” to identi (...)

26More importantly for our purposes here, this heterogeneity translates directly into institutional configurations. To demonstrate this, one needs only to examine the spectrum of experts involved in the creation of the cantonal lists of ICH: from archaeology (tangible heritage) to ethnology29 (ICH), through media studies and including a wide range of professional statuses (from independent scholar to museum curator) and commitments (academic, bureaucratic, ideological). In contrast to most of its European neighbors, Switzerland does not possess a uniformly trained and socialized group of cultural experts, such as those who people the halls of the French or Italian Ministries of Culture. As the procedures and professionals involved in the collecting of cantonal ICH were heterogeneous, it is hardly surprising that the resulting lists were as well.

27From a bureaucratic point of view, the heterogeneity of the data could be seen as a limit of the process. One could argue, for example, that this heterogeneity does not allow coherent comparisons between the 387 cantonal propositions and the 160 items selected for the indicative list. This incoherence could resurface as a problem during the third and final stage of the process, the selection of 6–12 “representative” items of Swiss culture to be submitted to UNESCO. From a political point of view, however, this same heterogeneity can be characterized as a specificity: One could argue that it proves how successful the process has been, as it faithfully reflects the cultural and linguistic diversity that is preserved by the Swiss federalist system.

  • 30 “Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.” This slogan has been used to symbolize the form that national so (...)

28It is clear from what proceeds that neither of these normative judgments accurately reflects the complicated interactions between actors and representations of Swiss culture that have produced the current situation. Rather, these judgments are themselves part of the data that must be taken into account in our understanding of the process. Indeed, this on-going process reveals that finding common selection criteria for the three types of lists according to the traditional and symbolic Swiss motto, “One for all, all for one,”30 is part of the performance of a federal system.

  • 31 Of 12 inventories submitted by the 26 cantons, 8 were directed by anthropologists and 3 by anthropo (...)

29That being said, we must also account for the ways in which, despite the lack of uniformly trained cultural civil servants and unified cantonal procedures, a great deal of consensus was in fact produced through this procedure and around its results. One of the reasons for this clearly lies in the disciplinary training and professional activities of the diverse cultural experts called to the table. Social-cultural anthropology remained the dominant discipline and most of the experts shared institutional language through their professional positions or their academic publications.31 Thus, expert knowledge played a major role in this process of inventorying Swiss “living traditions” and stabilizing them within a “regime of truth” (Foucault 1969). UNESCO ICH categories were reworked to fit the Swiss situation through a transfer from the political and administrative to the scientific domains that could subsequently be passed down to the interested actors. This making of intangible heritage discourse was rarely questioned and tended to be hegemonic among the social actors concerned (from bureaucrats to civil society representatives, through media and cultural arenas). In reality, this production of knowledge acquired meaning through the operation of power within social practices: The 167 selected “living traditions” generate the production of files, whose description strengthens the representation of practices among stakeholders (see Appendix).

  • 32 For further reading regarding issues of the entanglement of economic, political and cultural intere (...)

30Even more interesting, no doubt, despite the key role played by cultural experts, the process made virtually no recourse to the notion of “authenticity” in order to legitimize the decisions taken by the federal expert group. Indeed, a large number of those “living traditions” finally selected are highly commercialized, radically “unauthentic” cultural productions, generously subsidized by the Swiss tourist lobby and local leisure industry;32 examples would include carnival, yodeling, costume-making, and wine festivals. Rather, based on a consensual model of “diversity” and “representativeness,” they reflect “nice” culture, “good” practices and “positive” traditions that are perceived as emanating from all of the linguistic, religious and geographical regions of Switzerland. The effect of including such “living traditions” enacts and reinforces a gap between these romanticized categories of “Swiss tradition” and other elements of culture, history and tradition in this country, leaving all manner of expressions in the shadows, and this despite a high degree of community involvement in the continuity and transmission of these practices.

7 Conclusion

31Therefore, the in-depth study of this complex process raises new questions for our understanding of the role of heritage and tradition in the Swiss socio-political field. Does the implementation of the 2003 Convention re-enact federalism? Do experts really produce common knowledge? What are the repercussions of this process on Swiss culture as a whole if indeed we can still give credence to this notion after this exercise? This chapter demonstrates that the difficulty inherent in the enterprise of defining a homogenous notion of Swiss culture is compounded in a federalist system where cantons play a major role. Yet, paradoxically, the process becomes part of the outcome, and its very incoherence and “diversity” comes to stand in for a certain kind of legitimacy. This can be noticed, for example, in the reactions of non-Swiss observers when they learn of the procedures described in this paper. Generally, experts are both surprised and impressed by the fact that all of the 26 Swiss cantons worked together to produce their inventories simultaneously and in dialogue with one another. The consensual nature of the procedure seems to overshadow the ad hoc and contestable nature of the outcomes, such that a vague and largely intangible aura of “Swissness” seems to float over the entire enterprise.

32The process of inventorization, of course, is still on-going, as the final decision on the items for inclusion in the national and international lists will only be made in the fall of 2012. One of the questions left wide open for our study is the role that the approximately twenty ethnologists engaged as experts have played in the process. Will they manage to create opportunities to emphasize less reified, more dynamic and reflexive, even controversial expressions of Swiss culture, such as Swiss banking secrecy, or will the entire exercise finally reflect highly commercialized stereotypes of Switzerland’s “living traditions” with which the population is presumed to identify simply because they reproduce popular stereotypes of the popular? The question at this stage remains open!

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Annexes

9 Appendix: List of Living Traditions in Switzerland compiled by the Federal Office for Culture (Bundesamt für Kultur [BAK] 2012)

Umsetzung der UNESCO-Konvention zur Bewahrung des immateriellen Kulturerbes:
Erarbeitung einer Liste der lebendigen Traditionen in der Schweiz

Finalisierte Auswahl für die Liste der lebendigen Traditionen in der Schweiz
von der Projektsteuerungsgruppe verabschiedet am 5. September 2011

Anmerkung: Die Titel sind teilweise noch Arbeitstitel.

Mise en œuvre de la convention de I'UNESCO pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine:
rédaction d'une liste des traditions vivantes de Suisse

Sélection définitive pour la liste des traditions vivantes de Suisse
adoptée le 5 septembre 2011par le groupe de pilotage du projet

Remarque: Dans quelques cas, les titres sont encore de titres de travail.

Attuazione della Convenzione dell'UNESCO per la salvaguardia dei beni culturali immateriali:
elaborazione di una lista delle tradizioni viventi in Svizzera

Selezione finale delle tradizioni viventi in Svizzera da inserire nella lista
approvata il 5 settembre 2011 dal gruppo di coordinamento del progetto

Osservazione: In alcuni casi, i titoli sono ancora provvisori.

Notes

1 This substitution was effectuated in order to promote better understanding amongst the media, the government officials involved and the population.

2 This research was carried out within the framework of a larger project entitled “Intangible Cultural Heritage: the Midas Touch?,” funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and coordinated by Professor Ellen Hertz, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

3 Cantonal propositions were first submitted to the federal administration (September 2010–March 2011); the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) then made its recommendations to the cantons (March–September 2011); and, at the time of this writing, the federal administration is selecting a list of national representative items (September 2011–March 2012) (Office fédéral de la Culture et Haute Ecole de Lucerne 2010).

4 “Rösti” is the Swiss dialect term for hash browns, historically eaten as a breakfast food in German-Swiss areas. The “Röstigraben” (Rösti-ditch) metaphorically refers to the cultural division confirmed through cultural-geographic atlas documentation between the German and French Swiss area; it runs along the Saane river, through the bilingual canton Fribourg (Centlivres 1996, Büchi 2001).

5 “Office fédéral de la Culture” in French, “Bundesamt für Kultur” in German.

6 Assemblée fédérale de la Confédération suisse (2009): Loi fédérale sur l’encouragement de la culture (LEC).

7 The Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia, a federally funded cultural foundation, also plays a key role in supporting original creation in theater, dance, literature, music, and the visual arts. Pro Helvetia has also participated in the protection and promotion of ICH since the beginning of 2012 within the frame of the revision of the LEC.

8 See in particular http://www.culturaldiversity.cioff.ch/index_suisse.html, initiated by the International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Art (CIOFF), an NGO founded in 1970 that enjoys formal consultative relations with UNESCO. The Swiss branch was established in 1985 (see http://www.cioff.ch/) with the help of Traditions for Tomorrow, an NGO which has been supporting cultural initiatives by indigenous communities in Central and South America since 1986 and very active in Switzerland (see http://tradi.info/) <all accessed July 20, 2012>.

9 The Swiss Federal Council represents the executive branch of the federal government. It is composed of a college of seven ministers, elected by the Parliament, with a rotating presidency.

10 “Guidelines for establishing a list of living traditions in Switzerland,” adopted by the FOC steering committee, June 2, 2010.

11 As of April 2011 (closure of the website), 102 propositions were posted on the website by Swiss citizens. See http://www.lebendige-traditionen.ch <accessed July 20. 2012>.

12 The German-and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland were covered by colleagues, respectively Karin Janz and Andrea Jacot-Decombes.

13 These collective inventories are circumscribed in geographical areas, such as central Switzerland (Luzern, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schwyz, Uri, and Zug) or eastern Switzerland (Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Glarus, Graubünden, St-Gallen, Schaffhausen, Thurgau, and Zürich). In addition, Aargau and Solothurn, and Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft decided to work in collaboration.

14 Individual inventories were submitted by Bern, Fribourg, Genève, Jura, Neuchâtel, Ticino, Vaud, and Wallis.

15 Note that the French expression for “original cantons” is “cantons primitifs.”

16 Romansh, the fourth national language, was included within the German-speaking part of Switzerland due to the existence of only three working languages in the federal administration.

17 This first round of cantonal propositions applied the second version of the “Guidelines” published on February 18, 2010 (a first version was established on January 16, 2010). A third version was then produced (May 27, 2010) and discussed by cantonal and federal experts. It was finally adopted by the steering committee on June 8, 2010, see footnote 8.

18 In the minds of some commentators, the Napoleonic conquest (that created the short-lived Helvetic Republic lasting only a couple of years after the defeat of certain regional armies by the French revolutionary army in 1798) has left a mark on the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

19 The “Landsgemeinde” is a popular assembly of eligible men and, since 1971, women that directs the affairs of cantonal government. Although it has been abolished in all cantons except for Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus, in everyday discourse, it remains an icon of direct democracy.

20 For instance, Italian tradition (San Giuseppe-Tag in Laufenburg) and Jewish heritage are also proposed in Aargau, while Jenisch culture is mentioned as a national item.

21 See Bourget 2011, Dufour 2011a, 2011b, Stevan 2011.

22 Initiatives (100,000 signatures) allow citizens to petition for introducing amendments to the Constitution and referenda (50,000 signatures) to challenge any law passed by Parliament.

23 The notion of “social peace” (“paixsociale”) is central to the Swiss political imaginary. It refers to the system for regulating conflicts between unions and management around wages and working conditions.

24 At the present time, very little discussion has occurred over the question of how this procedure will take place, particularly with respect to political and economic interest groups.

25 In May 2011, the steering committee decided to change the use of these cantonal “portraits.” Nearly every canton produced a website to publicize their inventory and published the first results. The FOC steering committee, therefore, asked each of them to write a brief introduction to the cantonal propositions and a short methodology of the particular process used.

26 See the internal document of this meeting entitled Eingaben der Kantone (May 10, 2011).

27 Almost all of these festivities are Catholic.

28 “Jass” is a trick-taking card game and is played in most Alemanic-speaking areas of Europe.

29 For a better understanding of the Swiss case, I decided to choose the term of “ethnology” to identify disciplines studying societies, cultures and their collective expressions. I am aware of the fact that using this term “ethnology” could cast a shadow over other disciplines, such as social and cultural anthropology (in which I was originally trained) and folklore studies (which has concentrated on documenting the native culture of the nation within which the researchers work) that have different traditions and sometimes conflictual implementations in all parts of the country.

30 “Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.” This slogan has been used to symbolize the form that national solidarity and unity is thought to take in Switzerland, generally associated with the original myth of the founding of Switzerland through the union of its three original cantons in 1291. It circulated largely in 1868 during a campaign to raise money for alpine dwellers after massive flooding that year. It was inscribed in the cupola of the Federal Palace in Bern in 1902. Readers might, of course, also know it as the motto of Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers!

31 Of 12 inventories submitted by the 26 cantons, 8 were directed by anthropologists and 3 by anthropologically trained museum curators. Collective projects engaged a couple more anthropologists to cover large and diverse areas gathered within a geographical region (Antonietti; Meier; Rieder 2008).

32 For further reading regarding issues of the entanglement of economic, political and cultural interests, see Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 2006, Hemme; Tauschek; Bendix 2007.

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1: Map of inventories in Switzerland (Graezer Bideau and Munafò 2012)
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