Claiming the right to ride: ethnography of MTB struggle for mountain trails in Slovenia
Miha Kozorog (ZRC SAZU)
Paper short abstract:
The paper presents an increasingly popular recreational activity that transforms regimes of mountain trails by incorporating discourses on tourism, ecology and the future. MTB activists comprehend overregulated trails as the core metaphor of Slovenia’s rigidity and oppose it with alluring projects.
Paper long abstract:
The paper investigates discourses and activities of mountain biking (MTB) activists in Slovenia, who define the country's position and relief as ideal for development of MTB tourism. For two reasons, however, their visions are uncertain. Firstly, mountains have a significant symbolic position in the Slovenian national imaginary. In the late 19th century mountains, trails and mountaineering were involved in competing nationalisms. Ever since, mountaineering has claimed privilege on mountain trails. Hence, subsequent recreational activities have to negotiate their space on the trails in terms imposed by mountaineering. Secondly, MTB is legally forbidden for nature conservation reasons. MTB activists have been struggling unsuccessfully to change the legislation to suit their needs since the 1990s. Their activities have recently increased for three main reasons: firstly, the number of practitioners has grown, both in Slovenia and worldwide; secondly, new Triglav National Park Act was presented in 2010; thirdly, the Nature Conservation Act has been publicly debated. Several coalitions of MTB activists have been formed, including 'Let's open the trails', which negotiates on the governmental level. In order to change the legislation, MTB activists appeal on an ecological future, public health and prosperity of local tourism. They organise small, but internationally noticed businesses to act as paragons for co-nationals. They are modelling a neoliberal subjectivity, set against the perceived rigidity of Slovenia.
The winding roads: infrastructures and technologies of (im)mobility