Ortsbegehung Ristorante Cooperativo, Kickoff Schwarzenbach Komplex 15. August 2020

Schwar zenbach Kompl ex – eine andere Zukunft erinnern

How have the Schwarzenbach initiative and the violence perpetrated by the migrant worker regime affected migrants, their children and dominance culture? How does this history continue to affect intercultural relationships and migration policy today? How can history be told from migrant and anti-racist perspectives? And how can we remember, negotiate and process historical injustices in a collective, multi-voiced process with a view to ensuring democratic cohesion in post-migrant Switzerland?   [ké*sarà]

The transdisciplianry collective [ké*sarà] is developing an artistic ethnographic long-term project about migration and racism in Switzerland. On the 50th anniversary of the Schwarzenbach initiative, which was only narrowly rejected on 7 June 1970 (>see below), the «Schwar zenbach Kompl ex» was launched in summer 2020, kicked off at the Zürcher Theater Spektakel festival. Since September 2020 [ké*sarà] has been regularly organising public remembrance workshops, in which contemporary witnesses, experts of the everyday, activists, artists and researchers work together on a many-voiced, anti-racist remembrance policy and practice. The project is set to present its latest research results at the 2021 Theater Spektakel in a cluster of installation-based, performative and discursive formats. A project website also documents the collective creation process, home to video interviews with contemporary witnesses and subject matter experts, archive materials and analyses of the topic. “Schwar zenbach Kompl ex” make it possible to experience how an alternative archive is created publicly. In doing this, the project creates spaces dedicated to the social need for restorative justice.

The core team of [ké*sarà], consisting of Rohit Jain, a social anthropologist from Bern, Paola De Martin, a historian / TESORO activist from Zurich and Tim Zulauf, a theatre practitioner and author from Zurich, organises and coordinates the process and the implementation of the project. The working group is continuously supplemented by artists, researchers, activists and contemporary witnesses, who bring their expertise and visions to the table and help to jointly implement activities. 


Launched by James Schwarzenbach representing Zurich in the National Council, the  initiative against so called “Überfremdung” (excess of foreigners) was put to the vote on 7 June 1970. The initiative called for the proportion of foreigners in the Swiss population to be reduced to 10%. With 54% of votes against it, it was only narrowly rejected. At the time, only men were allowed to vote. If accepted, 300,000 predominantly Italian migrant workers would have been forced to leave the country. The initiative and the close outcome of the vote highlighted the structural violence of the migrant worker regime at the time: Strict government approval systems managed migrant workers, who were often housed in barracks under inhumane conditions, not allowed to have their families join them, frequently dismissed from companies and insulted on a daily basis. As a result of the oil crisis in 1973, hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs and had to leave the country anyway – as a buffer designed to counter the economic cycle.

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Organisation, coordination, implementation: Rohit Jain, Paola De Martin, Tim Zulauf Design: Guido Henseler (video), Urs Hofer (website programming), Norm / Manuel Krebs & Dimitri Bruni (graphics)  Coproduction partner: Zürcher Theater Spektakel Supported by: m2act – The funding and network project of the Migros Culture Percentage initiative that supports the performing arts

Image: Ortsbegehung Ristorante Cooperativo, Kickoff Schwar zenbach Kompl ex, 15. August 2020 ©ZTS Kira Barlach