Department of Historical Sciences - Contemporary History, University of Fribourg
The "Contemporary History Section" of the Department of Historical Sciences concentrates on the 19th and 20th century. It focuses on the political, economic, social and cultural basis of contemporary societies and enables a historically informed analysis of the present. Its research applies approaches of social sciences as well. Questions such as social inclusion and exclusion, which are fundamental for the understanding of the history of national states and other political models, are of particular interest. This leads to fields of research such as political systems, nationalism, racism, antisemitism, radical rightwing extremism, language politics, religion and denomination, migration, minorities as well as the history of women and gender.
Multilingualism, language politics and language minorities represent a particularly important field of research of the Contemporary History Section. In recent years, a series of research projects have been dedicated to these subjects.
The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) project "Universities as Social Laboratories: History of Bilingualism at the University of Fribourg" (2003-2006, Urs Altermatt and Christina Späti) analysed the history of bilingualism at the University of Fribourg regarding changes and turning points in the conceptions of bilingualism in different bodies involved.
The project "Language and Identity Politics" (SNSF-Project 56, 2006-2010, Damir Skenderovic and Christina Späti) investigated the policies of Swiss political parties regarding autochthonous and allochthonous minorities since the 1960's, and with it the role of parties in processes of identity formation. Language was hereby considered as important element for the presentation and instrumentalisation of collective identity.
Apart from these projects, several members of the Contemporary History Section have conducted individual research on language politics. Recent studies are Christina Späti’s habilitation thesis "Language as Political Issue. A Comparison between Switzerland and Canada since the 1960's" (2012) and Irma Gadient’s Master thesis "The Debates on the Restriction of Patois in the Canton of Fribourg (1872-1887)" (2010).