On the Tropical Origins of the Alps. Science and the Colonial Imagination of Switzerland, 1700–1900

Details

Serval ID
serval:BIB_1BD9E916A4B4
Type
A part of a book
Publication sub-type
Chapter: chapter ou part
Collection
Publications
Institution
Title
On the Tropical Origins of the Alps. Science and the Colonial Imagination of Switzerland, 1700–1900
Title of the book
Colonial Switzerland. Rethinking Colonialism from the Margins
Author(s)
Schär Bernhard C.
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan UK
ISBN
9781349495207
9781137442741
Publication state
Published
Issued date
2015
Editor
Fischer-Tiné Harald, Purtschert Patricia
Pages
29-49
Language
english
Abstract
A remarkable colonial encounter took place on 26 February 1896 on the south-eastern peninsula of Celebes — one of the many so-called outer islands in the far-flung Dutch Asian Empire. Two wealthy Swiss naturalists, Paul and Fritz Sarasin, the first Europeans to explore this large hitherto ‘unknown’ island, reached the summit of one of the mountains in the highlands. At 1000 metres above sea level they were rewarded with a surprising view. A large lake ‘gleaming in magnificent blue’ lay before them. ‘Delighted by this discovery we hurried down to the lakeside where yet another surprise awaited us. A real, inhabited village with houses built on piles arose from the water, a village named Matanna.’1 The Sarasins’ excitement grew even further as they found out that the lake dwellers on Celebes ‘practised a curious form of pottery with products reminding us of identical objects from Swiss lake dwellers’.2 It is important to note the asymmetry of this comparison. The Sarasins were not referring to contemporary Swiss lake dwellers. In fact there were no people living in lakes in Switzerland around 1900. The reference was to prehistoric lake dwellers, whose poles and material remains Swiss archaeologists had started digging up from the mud of the lakeshores a few decades earlier. What the Sarasins thought they had discovered on the shores of Lake Matanna was thus a piece of living prehistory on a tropical island which, to them, in many ways resembled Switzerland.
Create date
13/03/2022 11:54
Last modification date
14/03/2022 7:31
Usage data