The Swiss Association for North American Studies was founded in 1978 to provide a structure that would facilitate contact among Swiss scholars interested in American Studies and allow them to be represented institutionally in the European Association for American Studies (EAAS). Among the founding members were Max Silberschmidt (History, University of Zurich) and Heinrich Straumann (American iterature, University of Zurich), who had both been active in the founding of EAAS.
Originally called the Swiss Association for American Studies, the Association’s name was changed in 1986 to the appellation “Swiss Association for North American Studies,” to avoid confusion with the "Swiss Society of Americanists" and to indicate a concern for Canadian issues on the part of some members. Although individuals with an interest in our activities may belong to university departments of History, Geography, Sociology, Poli-tics or Economics, most members are attached to departments of English, signalling a primary concern for culture and literature. Thus our biennial conferences have dealt with themes that extend across history and literature to other disciplines; “Artists and Audiences in the Age of Henry James” (1992), “Apocalypse” (1998), “American Foundation Myths” (2002), “Representing Realities” (2004), “American Poetry: Whitman to the Present” (2006), “American Aesthetics” (2008), “Cultures in Conflict / Conflicting Cultures” (2012), "Literature, Ethics, Morality: American Studies Perspectives" (2014), "American Communities: Between the Popular and the Political" (2016), and "The Genres of Genre" (2018); whereas our annual in-house “Reading Group” seminars have concentrated on inviting U.S. scholars and writers to discuss their work and combining cultural, historical and literary approaches to individual works of literature.
SANAS cultivates good relationships with other American Studies Associations, notably the Austrian Association for American Studies (AAAS). In the past, AAAS and SANAS have held very successful binational conferences: “Empire” (Salzburg, 1996), “American Foundational Myths” (Zürich, 2000), “The Visual Culture of Modernism” (2010) and “Cultures in Conflict / Conflicting Cultures” (2012). Furthermore, in 2013 an ongoing collaboration with the Swiss Philosophical Society (Schweizerische Philosophische Gesellschaft) was established.
Our current membership counts about eighty members. Unlike many European professional associations, SANAS makes a point of welcoming the participation of graduate students, teaching assistants, and professors of all ranks. This egalitarian emphasis results in stimulating discussions in our biannual conferences, where members share the program with established scholars from abroad, primarily other European countries and the United States. These occasions are also a forum for trying out innovative modes of presenting an academic paper or organizing a workshop.