IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Immigration policies, state discourses on foreigners, and the politics of identity in Switzerland

Listed author(s):
  • Yvonne Riaño
  • Doris Wastl-Walter
Registered author(s):

    The role of state discourses in the construction of ‘otherness’ and in the production of inequality has become a major issue during a time of increasing changes in migration flows, of an increased presence of nationalist parties, and of increasingly restrictive immigration policies in Europe. In this paper we examine historical shifts in the representation of foreigners within Swiss state discourses and the effects of these shifts on the integration of immigrants into Swiss society. As state discourses regarding foreigners significantly changed after the First World War, the emphasis of immigration policies shifted from a facilitating to a constraining approach. Überfremdung , the notion that excessive numbers of foreigners can threaten Swiss identity, emerged as one of the most influential discourses in Switzerland and provided the foundation for a quantitative and qualitative strategy of defence against the immigration, settlement, and naturalisation of foreigners. In recent years, however, an agreement on freedom of movement between Switzerland and the European Union has been struck, and immigration policies have once again adopted a facilitating stance. As this applies only to citizens of the European Union, a stratified system of immigrant rights has been continued and perpetuated. At the same time, right-wing parties, which have recently risen to power, have successfully used Überfremdung propaganda to persuade Swiss populations to vote against the relaxation of conditions for the naturalisation of foreigners, thus ensuring that immigrants will be excluded from access to citizenship rights over generations. The politics of immigration in Switzerland is above all a politics of national identity.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    File Function: abstract
    Download Restriction: Fulltext access restricted to subscribers, see for details

    File URL:
    File Function: main text
    Download Restriction: Fulltext access restricted to subscribers, see for details

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Pion Ltd, London in its journal Environment and Planning A.

    Volume (Year): 38 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 9 (September)
    Pages: 1693-1713

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:38:y:2006:i:9:p:1693-1713
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:38:y:2006:i:9:p:1693-1713. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Neil Hammond)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.