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Migration and Qualification in Postwar Switzerland

Autor / Autorin des Berichts: 
Citation: Paolo Barcella, : Migration and Qualification in Postwar Switzerland, Tagungsberichte, 04.04.2016. Online: <>, Stand: 30.05.2020.

PDF-Version of the conference report

Currently, an increased attention to aspects of Switzerland’s migration history can be observed. On the one hand, there are several scientific publications on this subject. Recent historical research turn towards the perspective of the immigrants and focus on their agency and interests. On the other hand, the current debates on migration policy in Switzerland, in particular the public disputes on immigration and integration, are to be be informed by historical knowledge on migration issues in Switzerland.

In January 2016, ECAP Zurich organised a workshop on „Migration and Qualification in Postwar Switzerland“ in collaboration with the Fondazione Pellegrini Canevascini (Bellinzona). The workshop took place in the auditorium of ECAP Zurich, which has been running numerous and various courses in adult education and skill formation for immigrants in Zurich since 1970. Aim of workshop was to promote immigrants or emigrants as agents of their history. The way how Italian labour migrants in Switzerland initiated the supply of skill formation and adult education, is an outstanding example.

In the first part of the workshop, three historians presented their recent publications, which all of them include different aspects of Postwar Italian immigration in Switzerland. FRANCESCO GARUFO (Neuchâtel) first talked about a special issue of the Revue Suisse d’Histoire. In the issue, the authors emphasise the relevance of the perspectives of the immigrants as agents of their history.1 Garufo then presented his dissertation („L’emploi du temps“) on the significance of labour immigration for the Swiss watchmakers’ industry.2 MATTIA PELLI (Fondazione Pellegrini Canevascini and Archivio Storico del Trentino) reported on a volume on the diversity of historical sources that originated from immigrants or emigrants themselves.3 In addition, Pelli depicted, to what extent activities of immigrants were also part of labour history, referring to his research on labour dispute at the steel industry of Monteforno.4 PAOLO BARCELLA (Bergamo) finally presented his studies on the educational activities of Italian emigrants in Postwar Switzerland – both regarding skill formation and adult education of labour migrants as well as the schooling of their children.5 The origin of ECAP in Switzerland is part of this story.

The second part of the workshop comprised a panel discussion with these three historians, some current and former responsible protagonists of ECAP (GUGLIELMO GROSSI, GUGLIELMO BOZZOLINI, GIACOMO VIVIANI and LEONARDO ZANIER) as well as two experts on education and skill formation (PHILIPP GONON und PHILIPP EIGENMANN, Zürich). In first step, the discussants drew the attention of the audience to the significance of education and skill formation in regard of the immigrants’ capacity to act and to take part in the Swiss society. The present witnesses of the times referred to the difficult conditions, which limited the possible educational supply. These initial statements were followed by an animated discussion about the question, to what extent the conditions have changed since then. Challenges that had to be faced by organising courses in skill formation and adult education in emigration were compared to the current challenges ECAP is dealing with. The discussants specially agreed that the significance of language acquisition in emigration has constantly been the key element for the access to the society.

1 Revue Suisse d'Histoire (RSH), 65 (2015), 1: Le global au village: stratégies, espaces et réseaux transnationaux des migrants italiens en Suisse, im Migrationsgeschichte(n) in der Schweiz: ein Perspektivenwechsel, hrsg. von Irma Gadient und Damir Skenderovic.
2 Francesco Garufo: L'emploi du temps. L'industrie horlogère suisse et l'immigration (1930-1980). Lausanne 2015.
3 Mattia Pelli (Hrsg.): Archivi migranti. Tracce per la storia delle migrazioni italiane in Svizzera nel secondo dopoguerra. Trento 2014.
4 Mattia Pelli: Monteforno. Storie di acciaio, di uomini e di lotte. Lugano 2014.
5 Paolo Barcella: „Venuti qui per cercare lavoro“. Gli emigrati italiani nella Svizzera del secondo dopoguerra. Bellinzona 2012; Paolo Barcella: Migranti in classe. Gli italiani in Svizzera tra scuola e formazione professionale. Verona 2014.

Workshop Programme:

„Migration and Qualification in Postwar Switzerland“, January 21st, 2016, Organized by ECAP (Zurich) and Fondazione Pellegrini Canevascini (Bellinzona), Coordinated by Paolo Barcella (Bergamo) and Philipp Eigenmann (Zurich).

Francesco Garufo (Universität Neuchâtel) - Le global au village: stratégies, espaces et réseaux transnationaux des migrants italiens en Suisse, im Migrationsgeschichte(n) in der Schweiz: ein Perspektivenwechsel, hrsg. von
Irma Gadient und Damir Skenderovic, SZG 65/1, 2015.

Mattia Pelli (Archivio Trentino / Fondazione Pellegrini Canevascini) - Archivi migranti: tracce per le storia delle migrazioni italiane in Svizzera nel secondo dopoguerra, Trento/Bellinzona, Archivio Trentino / Fondazione Pellegrini Canevascini, 2014.

Paolo Barcella (Universität Bergamo) - Migranti in classe. Gli italiani in Svizzera tra scuola e formazione professionale, Ombre Corte, Verona, 2015.

Round table:
Philipp Gonon (Unversität Zürich)
Gugliermo Grossi (ECAP)
Gugliermo Bozzolini (ECAP)
Giacomo Viviani (ECAP)
Leonardo Zanier (ECAP)

Migrazione e formazione in Svizzera dopo 1950
Organised by: 
ECAP Zürich e la Fondazione Pellegrini Canevascini
Event Date: 
ECAP Zürich
Report type: 
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