We are currently experiencing a change in marriage and family law in Europe, which gives more respect to same-sex partnerships. It is actually a highly private issue who wants to live with whom. But the traditions and ideals of religious or national groups are closely linked to marriage and family law. This is why this issue is causing great controversy. In the verbal and pictorial debate it is sometimes difficult to see how we build on very specific social functions of bodies, sexuality and family in a natural manner.

In a research project, I use a historical example to examine how strongly the marriage law can be shaped by national ideas and how it is adapted to a state population policy. As early as 1939, paper marriages were made a punishable offence in Switzerland. The French writer Sacha Guitry brought this topic, which was also explosive in France, to the cinemas in a social satire that same year.


Schweizerin durch Ehe. Flüchtlinge aus dem Deutschen Reich und andere Frauen unter Verdacht der "Scheinehe", in: Grenzüberschreitungen. Migrantinnen und Migranten als Akteure im 20. Jh.

(Loose translation: "Swiss woman by marriage. Refugees from the German Reich and other women suspected of "sham marriages", in: Grenzüberschreitungen. Migrants as actors in the 20th century.")


  • Grenzüberschreitungen. Migrantinnen und Migranten als Akteure im 20. Jahrhundert
    (Loose translation: "Crossing Borders. Migrants as actors in the 20th century, University of Bern, February 2018.)
  • The Way Out. Microhistories of Flight from Nazi Germany, Luxembourg Centrefor Contemporary and Digital History, University of Luxembourg, Jan. 2018.
  • Society for Exile Research, Annual Conference, University of Saarbrücken, March 2017.


In addition to the religious and political dimension of Jewish history, even before (assumed) secularisation, there was already the realm of everyday life and material practice that provided opportunities for exchange, contact and common ground. The meaning of things and customs could be blurred or recoded, especially in processes of nationalization and migration.

I am looking for the resistant stories on different topics: unusual constellations, subjective experiences and unknown actors. Sometimes a found file is the starting point, sometimes a sewing kit, then again Super 8 films or a Yiddish radio series.

Exhibitions, audiovisual installations, monographs, essays, teaching material

In print:

  • A white patch instead of green landscape. The Surbtal on the maps of Jewish history in the 19th century, in: Picard / Bhend (ed.), "Jüdischer Kulturraum Aargau".
  • The Zurzach masses in talk. The old market town as the stuff of new legends like trials. In Zurzach.

Jewellery as Taste

"Everybody sells diamonds. There are diamonds everywhere," the black-market trader in the Hollywood classic "Casablanca" rants against the European refugees who are looking for cash or - even better - visas.  This says little about the historical situation in the North African transit country, but it is one of the most influential image programs in media history. And in this respect, this film also shows standards of good style and decency in jewelry. I am interested in the orientalisms, cultural and gender constructions of these condensations between commerce and art.


  • Western Modernism as Salvation – Aesthetic Allusions in the Movie Casablanca, in: Smeets, Theo (Hg.), «Thinking Jewellery», Arnoldsche Art Publishers, Stuttgart

Main Research Areas

  • Jewish cultural history 18th-20th century
  • Body and gender studies
  • Biography and Migration
  • Swiss history 19th-20th century
  • Material and popular culture
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