Title of the project:

New World: Stories of African immigration and integration into Switzerland.

Length of the project:

September 2011 – September 2012


Organizations promoting the project: 

– Webster University Geneva (www.webster.ch)

Webster University Geneva is a non-profit, American-Accredited University established in 1915 with campuses in Europe, USA & Asia. Webster University Geneva, located at 15 Rue de Collex, 1293 Bellevue, Switzerland, embodies the concept of an international education. This goal become reality as 600 students from over 90 countries come together as a community of learners engaged by faculty representing 25 nations.

Webster University Geneva Media Department commits itself to being engaged in projects that benefit the community.


Description of the project:

The “New World” was the name European immigrants gave to America when they migrated from Europe at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. In the 20th and the 21st century we witnessed the inverse; an important migrant flow of immigrants to the “Old World”.

Our interest in immigration reinforced by the recent influx of new immigrants to Switzerland following the African revolutions drives this research project. An impressive migrant flow to Europe has been happening since the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria and Libya.

Immigration from Africa is not a new phenomenon. This led us to question the process of immigration and the immigrant experiences of it. Do immigrants now find the process of immigration easier due to the influx of the revolutions or has the process remain unchanged? Once settled, what are immigrants’ experiences of integration and feelings regarding Swiss society and culture? Where do the difficulties arise for said immigrants? Is it necessary or even desirable to adopt and share traditional Swiss values, behaviors and culture? How is it possible to adapt to a new culture while maintaining a sense of their traditional beliefs, values and culture? Or are immigrants meant to leave their traditional values at the door to Swiss?

Research method:

1 – Interviews

Ivan Iga, Webster University Geneva Senior Media Communications major, conducted the interviews with immigrants who came to Switzerland from a variety of African countries. These interviews have been recorded and will later be used for a photo-book publication.

2 – Photographs

Francesco Arese Visconti, Webster University Geneva Photography Program Coordinator, photographed the subjects providing visual documentation of their experiences.

Visconti’s collection of portraits and interviews tells the story of the long, and often complicated, process of Swiss immigration from the subject’s point of view. Visconti chose to do portrait photos of immigrants in their work or home environments as a way to let the context speak to viewers regarding the relative success or failure of their integration in Switzerland. The portraits and the interviews were structured in such a way as to let the immigrants have a voice.

Photographs have been taken with a traditional medium format camera on 6×7 color negative film. The negatives have been scanned and fine art digital images have been printed.

3 – Goals

The research is guided by our intention to raise the global awareness on the topic of immigration and integration in Switzerland from Africa. Understanding the immigration process from the subject’s perspective is essential if Swiss authorities are to draft effective immigration policies. Policies that will neither obstruct the the rights of immigrants, nor subject Swiss citizen to excessive demands, will need to be implemented.

A book with all the photographs and the interviews will be printed by the end of 2012.

Three photo exhibitions have been planned in 2012:

– at the Photofolies photo festival in Touraine (France), September 21st-23rd (www.photo-en-touraine.org);

– at the Salon des Artistes Indépendants at the Geneva Palexpo, November 15th-18th (www.palexpo.ch).

– at the Université Ouvrière in Geneva, February 21st 2013 (www.uog.ch);




– Introduction with official data about the immigration in Switzerland in the last 20 years;

– Photographs of participants with an outline indicating the name of the person and the native country;

– Interviews will be integrated into the book. All the recorded interviews will be transposed into text and part of them will be published.

– Section with final considerations about immigration and integration in Switzerland from Africa deduced from the interviews.

Photo exhibition


– All the photographs will be printed on fine art paper A2 size.

– The images will be exhibited in aluminum frames.

– Part of some interviews will be put together and played in the photo exhibition room




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