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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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Part IV: Border Stories


part iv Border Stories Johanna Mitterhofer 13 Border Stories: Negotiating Life on the Austrian–Italian border abstract The establishment of the Austrian–Italian border between today’s South and East Tyrol in 1920 came as a shock to the people living in the villages surrounding the border. Perceived as an imposition “from above”, the border altered the local landscape, economy and politics in ways not always transparent to those whose lives were changed. But the border did not simply transform what surrounded it; the border was also transformed by its surround- ings. The river flowing across the border without changing shape or the German language spoken on either side were visual and auditory evidence that the border, although present, did not have the dividing power the political elites assigned to it. Stories told about the border’s genesis placed it squarely in village politics, relocating agency from external forces to local actors, who could be blamed and shamed. By retelling some of the stories and memories of elderly people living on either side of the Austrian–Italian border, Johanna Mitterhofer seeks to highlight, however, that borderlanders are not passive victims of border regimes imposed on them. Instead, their narratives give insight into how they actively explain, manage, cope with and challenge the undesired and difficult consequences of borders on their lives. The end of World War I saw the emergence of new borders across Europe. First drawn on paper by politicians and bureaucrats in the centres of power of the Western world,...

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