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Mountains and conflict: conflict as a factor in territorial adaptation and innovation

Call for articles: deadlines – December 20th, 2014 (abstracts), February 10th (articles), 2015
Director of Issue: Stéphane Gal, Laboratoire de recherche historique Rhône-Alpes (LARHRA), Université Grenoble-Alpes


The purpose of this special issue of the Journal of Alpine Research | Revue de Géographie Alpine is to look at mountain areas through the prism of conflict and, more specifically, through the relationship between conflict and territory.

Conflict is envisaged here in a broad sense of opposition and struggle, armed or unarmed, covering not only the political aspects, but also the military, social and cultural aspects, cutting across the notions of resistance and reaction, in their capacity to generate innovation.

The mountain context lends itself to an examination of the territorial dimensions of conflict. What does this situation produce at the local scale? And what role do morphological characteristics, mountain values and identities play in this?

This question of territoriality can be examined in relation to – among other things – the border situation of certain mountain ranges, a situation that has resulted, for example, in major communication arteries becoming strategic sites. Throughout history and from a military perspective, borders have represented places of conquest and/or places used to defend territories. From a contemporary and development perspective, via tunnels and rail infrastructures, border areas may constitute objects of domination and deterritorialisation. Places and objects of conflict may thus constitute heuristic objects in analysing the relationship between territories and networks, whether from the point of view of scale (local area vs international networks), identity (territory identified as a place of passage, for example), or development (territorial attachment vs attractiveness and activities founded on flows of people and goods).

Through the notion of territory, we also hope to gain insights into the dimensions of conflict over time. This calls for pluridisciplinary approach able to combine the events and processes played out over the long-term period: heritagization of historical conflicts, memory and identity, temporal aspects, and change. It is also important to take into consideration the direct and indirect impact on the natural environment, in terms of modifications and destruction.

This perspective enables us to put conflict into context, to examine its immediate consequences and the possible vestiges of one historical situation to be found in another. How can current conflicts, memory and the mobilisation or reinvention of the memory of past conflicts help us better understand current problems?

The relationship between conflict and territory, beyond that of memory, is also that of innovation, opportunities for change and visions of the future. Although the mobilisation of identities in conflicts is a subject that has been well studied, less is known about the effects of this situation in terms of territorial projects: what are the consequences for the representation of the group, for political commitment, and for development models? Conflict leads to confrontation between that which is local and that which surrounds it, between endogenous and exogenous elements. Does conflict result in a blockage in relations and entrenchment in a reactive or even reactionary position, or does it offer an opening to the outside world and new opportunities?

We therefore propose viewing conflict as the lever for territorial bifurcation: in response to a particular and moment ry ption in t,mountain areas thre repa pm intchoic Throoat aree">


Conposed themes (not exhaustive)

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