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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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1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 1.1 Thematic focuses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 1.2 Axes of analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 1.3 Argument structure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 2. Theoretical framework . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 2.1 The actors of the “new spaces of action” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 2.2 The crisis of nested territories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 2.2.1 The creation of new regional entities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 2.2.2 The emergence of layered identities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 2.3 Regional assemblages: to name territorial entities escaping political borders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 2.3.1 The limits of “scale” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 2.3.2 The limits of “levels” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 2.3.3 “Regional assemblage” for defining socio-spatial arrangements escaping traditional boundaries . . . . . . 31 2.4 Natural regions for classical regional geographers . . . . . . . . 33 2.4.1 An analytical conception of “natural borders” . . . . . . 33 2.4.2 A normative conception of “natural borders” . . . . . . . 34 2.5 The criticisms towards the realist approach of regional geography: the socio-constructivist proposition . . . . . . . . . 36 2.5.1 The socio-constructivist criticisms towards “natural regions” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 2.5.2 Regions are socially constructed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 2.5.3 Regions as constructs of second degree . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 2.6 The advent of the new regional geography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 2.6.1 Geography matters. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 2.6.2 The approaches of new regional geography. . . . . . . . . 42 2.6.3 The “common ground” of new regional geographers . . 43 6 2.7 The role of identity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 2.7.1 Identity, a social construct . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 2.7.2 Going beyond identity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 2.7.3 Grasping identity: objectivation and identification . . 50 2.7.4 Territorialized identities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 2.8 Eco-regionalization: the bioregionalist paradigm. . . . . . . 56 2.8.1 Thinking the Globe in natural subdivisions . . . . . . 56 2.8.2 Describing bioregionalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 2.8.3 Adjusting the political order to the natural one. . . . 60 2.9 Networks, key-actors in the Alpine regional assemblage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 2.10 Regional institutionalization. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 2.11 Hypothesis...

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