action #1: decolonize zurich. latinamerican perspectives

Updated: Jan 11


The roundtable "decolonize zurich. latinamerican perspectives" was the first public action of DECOLONIZE ZURICH in la_cápsula and we can happily say it was a full success! Our guests Prof. Patricia Purtschert, Paloma Ayala (artist), Tomas Bartoletti (historian), and Adriana Domínguez (curator) discussed decolonial processes and their relevance with regard to Zurich.

Patricia Purtschert started the panel with an input about colonial Switzerland and its remnants as well as ongoing issues of coloniality and racism. She talked about how the debate about Swiss colonial entanglements gained a foothold in academia over the last years and then shifted to public discussions of and confrontations with those issues. A current example that she brought up was a mural of the ABC in a school near Berne which shows animals that start with the respective letters – but also humans by using racist terms and caricatures.

A central topic of the discussion after Purtschert’s input were Swiss images of Latin American migrants in the art scene, the academic environment and every-day life in general. Our guests talked about stereotypes and difficulties to work as artists for Swiss institutions and shared their own experiences – their perspectives as migrants in a Swiss environment – with the audience. Also, we talked about art being a medium where issues of coloniality and xenophobia can be reflected and brought to public and it was particularly interesting to hear from our guests how they intend to do that in their projects. Many thanks go out to la_cápsula for hosting us and for all the people that visited our event either in person or in via the livestream. The event was supported by Latin American Center UZH.

Patricia Purtschert is philosopher and cultural researcher. She is co-head of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Bern. She is the autor of "Kolonialität und Geschlecht im 20. Jahrhundert. Eine Geschichte der weissen Schweiz" (2009) and co-editor of the volumes "Postkoloniale Schweiz. Formen und Folgen eines Kolonialismus ohne Kolonien (2012), Colonial Switzerland. Rethinking Colonialism from the Margins (2015) and Racial Profiling. Struktureller Rassismus und antirassistischer Widerstand (2019).

Paloma Ayala is interested in the relationship between domestic and political contexts. She often introduces fictional narratives as means of social, institutional or political critique, directed to different sorts of public, including people outside of ordinary cultural spaces. She is currently trying to resolve a connection between her Mexican native background and her current living space in Zürich, which until now has proven to be an elusive task.

Adriana Domínguez is curator and co-founder of the art space la_cápsula, an independent and experimental curatorial project that seeks to create a dialogue between the artistic and cultural production of Latin America and Swiss/local artists. la_cápsula discusses topics that affect both geographic territories, such as environmental issues, feminism, geopolitics, gender issues and decolonialism, are addressed in a wider sense and discussed within the context of Switzerland and its local population.

Tomas Bartoletti is a postdoc researcher at the Chair for History of the Modern World ETH, focusing on the Glarus-​born naturalist Johann Jakob von Tschudi (1818-​1889) and his voyages in Latin America, his research project aims to research a paradigmatic case in the global history of knowledge and in the history of what a group of scholars has recently called “Colonial Switzerland.”


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