International History and Politics
12 April 2021

Welcoming two Eccellenza Professorial Fellows

In September 2021, the Department of International History and Politics will welcome two Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Eccellenza Professorial Fellows, Dr. Antoine Acker and Dr. Mischa Suter. The SNSF Eccellenza Professorial Fellowships are aimed at highly qualified researchers developing their professorships. Eccellenza supports them in achieving their goal by allowing them to lead a funded research project with their team at a Swiss higher education institution.

Dr. Antoine Acker will lead a project entitled “AnthropoSouth: Latin American Oil Revolutions in the Development Century”. His research plans to address the history of global fossil fuel transitions looking at the interconnected fabrication of national petroleum economies in Latin America in the twentieth century. It examines the role model they played not only as anticolonial and anti-imperialist symbol, but also in creating patterns of state capitalist development in the Global South and increasing fossil fuel supply, trade networks and technologies at global scale.

Dr. Acker remarks that: “As a transnational history project that starts from a Latin American perspective to highlight the diversity of regional paths towards a carbon intensive global economy, this project needs to evolve within a scientific environment inviting towards transregional comparisons and connections, and the Graduate Institute offers an ideal research context in this respect. The Institute’s history and academic profile also connect to the different threads that have driven my scholarly path: a critical engagement with development discourses and their empirical impact, a decidedly global conception and practice of history.”

“Before working on the history of fossil fuels and the Anthropocene, I had projects about postcolonial migrations, and I published a book about the involvement of German business in the Amazon. It is an additional asset for me to be able to pursue these different interests in Geneva, where these topics are strongly represented by the faculty and in different initiatives.  I feel particularly enthusiastic about working in a place where the teaching of history underlines global circulations and connections and where I would be able to articulate my teaching offer about topics such as the history of petroleum as fuel of globalisation, connected histories of the Atlantic space, or the human origins of global warming.”

Dr. Mischa Suter will lead a project entitled “Decolonising the Psyche: The Politics of Ethnopsychology, 1930-1980”. He is as an archival-based historian with a background in European social history and the cultural history of economic life. His current research focuses on the ways in which, by the mid-twentieth century, the human psyche became a site of political negotiations. He explains that: “Decolonisation’s expansion of citizenship on a worldwide scale posed a challenge to the human sciences. Was the psyche universally the same? Or was it culturally distinct? These questions – pondered by anthropologists, colonial psychiatrists, anti-imperial activists and global mental health organisations alike – gained tremendous urgency during the long process of decolonisation. In our research group, we examine by way of case studies how debates on the universality or particularity of the psyche unfolded across different strands of the psychological disciplines: psychoanalysis, developmental psychology and psychiatry.”

“My first book, based on a dissertation at the University of Zurich, looked at everyday forms of indebtedness in nineteenth-century liberal capitalism.  In my second book, which I am completing this very moment, I examine conflicts over money as a societal medium in Imperial Germany and the Habsburg Empire between 1870 and 1923. With the Eccellenza project, my interests shift further towards the global history of science in the mid-twentieth century. I could not think of a better home for the project than the Department of International History and Politics. Its faculty has such an extraordinary breadth of expertise in global and international history. What is more, I am thrilled to meet the Institute’s students. I also want to make use of the genius loci of Geneva, too, since many of our sources are housed in the WHO archives.”

Dr. Acker will teach a course on “The Fuel of Globalisation: Transnational Histories of the Petroleum Century” in the autumn 2021 term, and one on “Competing Histories of Climate Change” in the spring 2022 semester. Dr. Suter will teach courses on the “Global History of Science: Colonial Encounters and Beyond” in the autumn 2021 and on “Introduction to Historiography and Historical Methods: Social History for a Global Age” in the spring 2022.