In the Swiss context there exists a rather recent but increasing effort of scholars and activists to inquire into the ways in which Switzerland contributed to and is influenced by colonialism. Most of this work focuses on the historical involvement of individuals, families, businesses and missionary institutions in colonial endeavours like the trade in enslaved persons and colonial goods, the exploration of newly colonized territories by Swiss scientists, and the establishment of racial theories. Accompanying these historic analyses there is important work about the ways in which Swiss culture overall was influenced greatly by the European world-view that formed in the wake of the enlightenment period and the spread of the colonial and racist ideas of modern Western superiority and how these cultural dispositions continue to exist in post-colonial Switzerland. This interactive map shows how this is the case for the city of Basel. It is the outcome of a collaborative exploration of colonialism in Basel, carried out by a visiting lecturer and students in Critical Urbanisms at the University of Basel (see below). It is developed in collaboration with visionscarto and is work in progress.
The map exists of three tours:
– TOUR 1: Colonial traces (blue)
– TOUR 2: Decolonial ecology (green)
– TOUR 3: Racial justice (purple)
► Open the map in a new window.
While you browse the map, listen to the audio guides:
TOUR 1. Colonial traces
TOUR 2. Decolonial ecology
TOUR 3. Racial justice
How the map came about
In Fall 2021, Claske Dijkema led a seminar on “Decolonizing the Swiss urban landscape” in the MA Critical Urbanisms at the University of Basel. The seminar was designed as a collaborative research project and was co-taught with issue-based organizers and civil society groups working against racialized exclusion, decolonization, gentrification, and urban space within Switzerland. The seminar approaches the city as a palimpsest: multiply inscribed and imperfectly erased, imbued with traces and residues, laden with memory, but also as a place that continues to be shaped by racism and unequal power relations, from a local to a global level. The questions that guided the seminar are: how do these colonial ideologies still shape Swiss cities materially and symbolically? How do economic relations and cultural representations that emerged during colonialism continue to shape Basel and the lives of those who inhabit the city? Over the course of three months, students looked for sites in Basel that tell these stories of colonial entanglements in both past and present.
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