Natacha Premand – Black Sheep and Mass Immigration: The Use of Caricature in Rejection of the “Other” (ASI 2014)
In recent years, right-wing political parties in Switzerland have initiated several referenda on issues pertaining to the admission and residency of foreigners. In this paper, I will examine the ways in which the “other” is constructed in the political discourse of Switzerland’s Union Démocratique du Centre, one of the instigators of these referenda. I will argue that the image of foreigners in official discourse as important contributors to Swiss society and the economy is successfully undermined by their depiction by the right wing as “black sheep” – literally so in one controversial but effective advertising campaign. By also associating negative characteristics with particular ethnic groups, the right seeks to elicit fear and rejection. This contributes to establishing negative connotations with respect to all foreigners or minority groups, regardless of any explicit or specific voicing of concerns. In response to these campaigns, the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has recommended that the Swiss Federal Commission on Racism be given more independence from government and be empowered to regulate the media and political
discourse. The paper attempts to better define the space created by these campaigns as a site of impact on the mental health of foreign populations and minority groups that has been neglected and is in need of urgent study.