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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 momentary situation, mountain areas have to make choices. To what extent are these choices influenced by traditional paths adopted in times of conflict? The mountain territory is confronted with, and must take into account, an historical relationship with the natural environment, its instrumentalisation, and its values. It also finds itself caught between scales and between spaces. What are the territorial aspects at stake?

In this context, the Journal of Alpine Research | Revue de Géographie Alpine is proposing a call for articles on the theme “Mountains and conflict”, which will examine conflict as a factor for territorial adaptation and innovation. The special issue will endeavour to give ample space to proposals from all the social sciences. Proposals may cover different historical periods or refer to current situations, and at the same time focus on the Alps or any other mountain areas of the planet.

Proposed themes (not exhaustive)

  • Effects and processes of social and cultural transformation, with conflict being taken as a matrix of social, technical and cultural innovations.

  • Identity building and heritagization: the mobilisation of history in current conflicts, the role of territory in the process of shaping identity. Memories of conflict, conflict as a type of cultural practice.

  • Borders and limits, armed conflict in mountain areas, development of defence and fortifications.

  • The strategic value of mountain morphology: valleys, slopes, summits, piedmont areas as communication structures and geo-strategic objects.

  • Tensions between identities and autonomy, centrality and periphery.

  • Conflict and the natural environment: adaptation, change, destruction...


The issue will be published around July 2016.

Please send abstracts in English (approximately 1000 words) before Dec. 20th, 2014 to Stéphane Gal, Marie-Christine Fourny, Dominique Baud and Emmanuelle Tricoire –, , ,


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Berthier-Foglar S., Bertrandy F. (dir.), 2011.– La montagne : Pouvoirs et conflits de l’Antiquité au XXIe siècle, Chambéry, Université de Savoie.

Debarbieux B. et Rudaz G., 2010.– Les faiseurs de montagne, imaginaires politiques et territorialité, XVIII-XXIe siècle, CNRS éditions.

Gal S., 2013.– « Ein König für die Alpen, ein König aus den Alpen », Histoire des Alpes, Storia delle Alpi, Geschichte der Alpen, 2013/18, p. 197-217.

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Sutton K., 2013.– « Le conflit autour du Lyon-Turin dans le val de Suse. Vers une nécessaire reconsidération des basses vallées alpines », Revue d’Économie Régionale & Urbaine, 2013/1, p. 179-201.

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