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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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2. Theoretical framework

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The first part of this chapter has two aims. Firstly, it situates the re- search within the contemporary debate of regional building by un- derlining the complex relations that exist between social actors and the environmental context in which they act. The region, as analysed here, is affecting and being affected by those relations. It follows Painter’s idea that regions should be understood “as both resources for, and the outcomes of, human action” (Painter, 2008: 343). Sec- ondly, it intends to help the reader place the research within the wider spectrum and traditions of regional geography. The overarching goal is thus to justify the choice of the theoretical perspective I favoured in the research, i. e. the perspective of what is called new regional ge- ography. In order to understand the implications of this choice, I will present an overview of the theoretical perspectives preceding the ad- vent of new regional geography. In the second part, I will discuss some of the key concepts struc- turing the research. I will begin by clarifying and laying out the con- tent and application of the concept of identity and justifying the choice to divide it into two terms, namely objectivation and identification. On one level, I assume that the pan-Alpine identity of local political actors is based on the common reference to a particular, objectivized regional setting, namely the Alps. On another level, the identification with this regional setting can be a source of action and projects. Fur- thermore, I...

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