Accepted Paper:

"Swiss watch-making hasn't changed!" The production of historical continuities and the heritagization of the watch-making industry in the Swiss Jura region  


Hervé Munz (University of Geneva)

Paper short abstract:

The political formation of a recent category of watch-making heritage in the Swiss Jura region will be here adressed. I ask which forms of knowledge are mobilized to construct this heritage and how does it generate other forms of knowledge that support new political, social and scientific projects.

Paper long abstract:

Since the 18th century, the watch-making industry has been crucial in the economic rise and to the identity construction of the Swiss Jura region. Not surprisingly, on March 25th 2003, the council of the Neuchâtel state passed a motion, calling for the "valorization of watch-making heritage in the Neuchâtel territory".

Crystallizing the preoccupations of local leaders around regional developpment issues, this political gesture initiated the creation of an important number of projects which attempt to link the polymorphic notion of cultural heritage and the current forms or historical traces of the local watch-making industry.

Thus, for the past fifteen years, regional fields of industry, culture, tourism and politics have all been involved in bringing life to the structuring category of "watch-making heritage" and vice versa, they have taken on the permanent recreation of it. Indeed, this category is continually mobilized by local actors and politics to support scientific writings, political actions, tourism strategies, brand marketing and, recently, application to the UNESCO's Heritage List.

In postulating that the construction of such a watch-making heritage necessarily requires the production of historical continuities that justify the link between the past and the present, the aim of this paper is double. First, I ask which forms of knowledge must social actors use to produce these continuities. Second, I ask how the uses of this category of watch-making heritage induce the production of new representations of history and new ways of knowing which support new political, social and scientific projects.

Panel P312
Making heritage, making knowledge