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Linking up the Alps

How networks of local political actors build the pan-Alpine region

Cristina Del Biaggio

The signing of the Convention on the protection of the Alps (Alpine Convention) by the Alpine States in 1991 heralded new practices and perspectives. This transnational project is intended to solve important challenges faced by the Alpine population. Convinced that the Alpine Convention should fulfil its potential, some non-governmental organizations and some active persons created networks of local political actors to connect local representatives, researchers, managers of protected areas and ecological associations. These were designed to realize a sustainable pan-Alpine region. This book endeavours to understand how and why local political actors, organized in pan-Alpine networks, chose to take mountain regions in general, and the Alps in particular, as the shared frame of reference for their involvement. It explores if and how a pan-Alpine identity detached from and/or combined with the more «traditional» national identities is developing among and enacted by local political actors engaged for the Alpine Convention. It also analyzes the socio-political significance of local political actors’ involvement in the newly constituted pan-Alpine networks.
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6. Pan-Alpine networking: performing the regional assemblage

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6.   Pan-Alpine networking: performing the regional assemblage

In the previous chapter, I analysed how the Alps are imagined and objectivized by the local political actors involved in the networking process. By creating a common and shared image of the Alps, local political actors are simultaneously internalizing and externalizing the idea and representation they have of them. The interviews I conducted with local political actors, as well as the websites of the networks in the study, show that this image is not homogeneous.

Nevertheless, common characteristics can be drawn, for example the Alpine socio-cultural and natural diversity as a foundation of its unity. According to the local political actors, the beauty of the Alpine nature and heritage should, on the one hand, be protected and, on the other, promoted and managed in a sustainable way. In a second instance, the concept of identification was introduced in order to demonstrate the capacity some local political actors have to identify themselves inside the perimeter they objectivized as the Alps. With local political actors’ increased awareness that mountains inherently entail something positive, some of them seize the opportunity to invest in that perimeter by proposing innovative initiatives and to implement projects in their local reality by creating institutions, such as the pan-Alpine networks, capable of supporting those projects.

In so doing, as Debarbieux contends in an article published in the Journal of Alpine Research, mountain regions might become a referent for collective action (Debarbieux, 2009). However, the geographer...

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