Seeing Switzerland: A Cross Cultural Conversation

This article notes how like New Zealand, Switzerland as a country, is portrayed as being a clean and pure country in terms of its landscape, laden with picturesque mountains. Such an image also extends for the Swiss legal and political environment, leading many to adopt the phase, “I’m Switzerland” when taking a neutral stance on matters. However, this article, through different lenses from a cultural insider and sociological foreigner, engages in a conversation between an American photographer, Douglas Harper and Swiss photographer, Ricabeth Steiger. It is suggested that whilst Switzerland is idealized in such a perfect this, this may not be reflective of the reality. This article has many connections to similar advertising in New Zealand, associating the country as a pure green landscape to tourists. However, in reality, this is not a true reflection.

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The reality and the idealized are different despite the advertising, for example, for the previous rugby world cup presenting New Zealand as 100% pure. I found this article particularly interesting as it highlights the power of technology today to manipulate images to fit a particular ideal. For example, photos can be edited to make a clear blue sky even more blue, or a river to appear even more crystal. This issue is also one that relates to anthropology. For example, in the film, Dead Birds (Gardner 1963) is critiqued as exacerbating an aspect of the Dani culture, that in reality was not the nexus of their culture. However, whilst there is debate over the centrality of warfare to their culture, there is no denying that the exacerbation of this warfare was appealing to the Western audience, and emphasized a sense of difference between them and us, making it appealing to watch. In much the same way, advertisements for countries are designed to present a vision of a country where people, when comparing it to their current situation, desire to visit. For example, the significance of showing a vast, green open landscape, in a bustling foreign country.

However, as this article showed, by comparing the visual representations are we able to deconstruct the myths of the landscape, and understand that no country is immune, but rather all have flaws. For example, Switzerland is much the same as its European neighboring, suffering from immigrants, and famine. Nonetheless, such imagery presented from the culture itself, can be quite powerful if the country makes it a priority to work towards such images.

18 March 2020

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