The spatial and social identity of the local political elites of Zurich and Lausanne (1946-2016): using GIS and prosopography in local elite studies

The question of the spatial location of the elite is very marginal in elite studies. Yet geographical information provides a heuristic material about historical transformations of the spatial location of elites and their identity (i.e age, gender, educational background, profession, political family), especially in urban and local elites studies. Thus, the recent use of GIS (Geographical Information System) in history and social sciences, especially in elites studies, demonstrates encouraging results (see Van Hamme & Marissal 2008; Cunningham et al. 2015; David & Heiniger 2018).

This contribution proposes to study different aspects of the entrelacs relations between spatial and social information characterizing both simultaneously the social identity of urban political elite and its spatial location. To do this we study the impact of the residence place of the local political elites (and their elective district) of the city of Zurich and Lausanne on their social and political identity from 1946 to 2016.

This historical analysis presents three major scientific interests. First of all, it allows us to verify the spatial homogeneity or heterogeneity of this urban elite and gives the opportunity to question the impact of the spatial dimension on the recruitment of urban elected officials and the way it constitutes a fundamental aspect characterizing the local power structure. Secondly, this study examines how geographical information is reflected in the social identity of the local political elites. Thirdly, we examine if sociodemographic transformations of cities (e.g gentrification) have an impact on the social and location identity of the local political elites and its power structure.

On a methodological point of view, this study combines a prosopographical approach with GIS techniques and visualisations. Our analysis is based on biographical and spatial data regarding around 1675 local councilors (875 councilors in Zurich and 800 councilors in Lausanne), subdivided in seven cohorts from the late 1946 to 2016.