The Colonial Imaginaries of
Switzerland's Gender Equality Policies
Dissertation to complete the requirements for the MSc in Women, Peace and Security (WPS), submitted to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), August 2020
Switzerland forms part of a wider European modernity constituted though capitalist exploitation, racism, heterosexualism and colonialism. Although often deemed as a neutral, morally superior and colonially innocent state, Switzerland must finally come to terms with its colonial complicity. This dissertation, situated within the decolonial and intersectional canon, therefore asks how Swiss policies on gender equality reproduce gendered, colonial and racialised narratives and seeks to identify how the needs of women not living single-issue lives are addressed.
Theoretically, the study applies theories of intersectionality and coloniality/decoloniality to emphasise connected histories and spaces as well as intersecting oppressions. The qualitative intersectionality-based policy analysis as the main methodology exposes the policies’ male- and whitestream and its dehumanisation of some but not all bodies.
The findings of the research suggest that the Swiss policies’ women- and refugee-friendly self-portrayal coupled with the ascription of suffering elsewhere, leaves disadvantaged women in Switzerland in a space of insecurity and un-liveability. What is more, the ranking of foreign harms and the policies’ gendered and racialised portrayal of BIPOC represent deeply colonial impulses.
Going forth, the policies’ binary understanding of gender negates the existence of LGBTQ/I+-individuals, whilst the policies’ privileging of gender erases all experiences beyond the white, heterosexual, cis-female normativity. Ultimately, this study deconstructs the subject position of the woman participant and criticises the policies’ arguments for including more women in militarised, masculinist, neoliberal and capitalist spaces that renders women’s failure a personal problem. This study concludes that the mere exhibition of equality policies does not automatically improve everyday people’s lives and urges to re-envision them with the ambition to seek lives that are worth living.