How new is the "new peopling" of the Alps?
Pier Paolo Viazzo (Università di Torino)
Paper short abstract:
How new is the "new peopling" of the Alps? While it represents a departure from the demographic closure of the modern age, a longer-term perspective reminds us that nobody was born a mountaineer. This helps us to look with different eyes at the delicate relations between "locals" and newcomers.
Paper long abstract:
After a prolonged period of demographic decline, the Alps are experiencing a widespread, if uneven, process of "new peopling". Historical evidence shows that this process represents a departure from the demographic closure documented for the long stretch of time that extends from the 16th to the late 20th century. Yet, a longer-term perspective reminds us that nobody was born a mountaineer. Such a realization helps us to look at present-day immigration with different eyes. Nevertheless, relationships between people of ancient local descent and newcomers are bound to be delicate. Anthropologists are rightly focusing on the effects of demographic change on the transmission of intangible cultural heritage: just who should be entitled to learn about, transmit and promote local cultures may entail tense social negotiation between autochthonous and immigrant sectors of the population. However, this focus on intangible heritage should not obscure the role of tangible assets - such as land, buildings and rights to private and collective resources - which are often essential to ensure that traditional craftsmanship is rescued and preserved. In particular, attention should be paid to structural and political factors which favour inhabitants of ancient descent and partly meant to encourage them to remain: when nobody could imagine that people might again be desirous (or forced) to move to the high valleys, they were praised as a brake on mountain depopulation. They might now turn into mechanisms of exclusion which hamper the new peopling of the Alps and block potential avenues of social innovation and cultural creativity.
People and wilderness coming back - negotiating mobility and 'immobility': the case of the Alps and other European mountainous regions