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A Land on the Threshold

South Tyrolean Transformations, 1915–2015

Edited By Georg Grote and Hannes Obermair

Among the many commemorations of World War I, little was made of the 100th anniversary of the secret Treaty of London between Italy and the Western War Allies in April 1915, which sealed the fate of South Tyrol for the duration of the twentieth century by passing it from Austria to Italy. In May 2015, a symposium was held in the medieval Prösels Castle in the Italian Dolomites to mark this historical moment. Contributors set out to explore the political, social and cultural impact of South Tyrol’s existence «on the threshold» during the twentieth century.

Individually and collectively, the essays in this volume challenge the simplistic reading of South Tyrol as merely a geographic region torn between Germanic and Italian cultures; instead, they explore the dynamic effects of its geographical, political and cultural history since 1915. South Tyrol, as a modern regional state in Europe, faces many of the same problems as other European regions, be they individual states or sub-state regions. Most of the contributions in this volume are from academics and intellectuals within the Province of Bolzano/Bozen who negotiate and discuss these issues through their native languages: German, Italian and Ladin. By making their research accessible through English translations and abstracts, this volume seeks to bring their work on historical and contemporary developments in South Tyrol to a wider European and global audience.


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Introduction: South Tyrol: Land on a Threshold. Really? (Georg Grote / Hannes Obermair)


Georg Grote and Hannes Obermair Introduction: South Tyrol: Land on a Threshold. Really? While South Tyrol is a part of Italy, it is also an autonomous province with distinct Austrian and German characteristics. Both South Tyrol’s geographic location and history underscores its position as a region where the north meets the south of Europe: at its border, Italian and German cultures and languages converse and Mediterranean and north- ern European climates collide. Hence, it has regularly been described as an “Übergangsland” – as a passage from north to south and vice versa. It has, however, been a contested region for 150 years, and political view- points have often characterized the approach of writers and commenta- tors towards this mountainous region in the Central Alps. Depending on the source and context, the region has been claimed as a German or Italian one; only in recent years has there been a growing tendency to regard the region as both German and Italian.1 It is this latter tendency to view South Tyrol as a unique hybrid of both these cultures that this volume wishes to explore through the prism of various disciplines. While the German and Italian influences may not always harmonize with each other, this collection of essays reveals that they do inform and enrich the region resulting in a complex and diverse collective culture that is modern South Tyrol. Nothing has epitomized the German and Italian claims on South Tyrol as succinctly as the name of the area itself: Südtirol (South...

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