Accepted Paper:

Coming of age in the mountains: youth between imaginaries of tradition and innovation  


Andrea Friedli Rizaev (University of Applied Science, HES-SO Valais-Wallis)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses questions of mobility and migration, social relationships and networks as well as of production of locality of young people living in mountain areas in the Swiss Alps. Youngsters take an important role in shaping local identities between images of tradition and innovation.

Paper long abstract:

There are many idealized imaginations about a protected childhood and youth in the natural and wild surroundings of mountain areas, not least supported by children's stories such as the famous "Heidi and Peter" in the Swiss Alps by Johanna Spyri.

However, the lives of young people in remote mountain villages nowadays are affected by different long-term and more recent transformations: Besides influences of touristification of landscapes and economies, newer trends of urbanization and gentrification influence imaginaries, mobilities and local narratives in mountain areas. Youngsters take an important role in shaping local identities finding themselves between the expectations of keeping and maintaining local traditions (or family enterprises) by local actors, the images of "youthful and innovative international vibes" by external visitors and individual wishes and possibilities in connection with local attachment and the own life course.

This paper aims at shedding light at diverse aspects of "coming of age" in the mountains, including questions of 1) economic and lifestyle mobility/migration (who remains in the region, who comes back after higher education in a city and why?), 2) social relationships and networks (what are the roles of family networks, how do social relationships develop in different regimes of mobility?) and 3) production of locality (how are young people attached to places and territories, how do they contribute to the construction of imaginaries of the local?).

Panel Rur02
Tracking changes in the mountains: imaginaries, mobilities, narratives