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Mountains and the collective management of the commons: influences and interactions

Call for papers: Deadlines : 1 January 2020 (abstract) and 1 January 2020 (full article). Guest editor : Jean-François Joye, Alessandro Crosetti. For JAR/RGA: Anouk Bonnemains, Sylvie Duvillard.


This call for articles that are multidisciplinary (law, geography, history, sociology, anthropology etc.) in nature is part of the COMON project, which analyses the ‘commons’ in mountain territories and is carried out by the University Savoie–Mont Blanc in collaboration with other universities, including the Grenoble Alpes University. The project’s aim is twofold: to gain a better understanding of the workings of ancestral collective ownership systems linked to village communities and to evaluate whether these systems can be used to meet the environmental, climate and social challenges of today.

Nature and identity of ‘village communities’, nature of ownership ‘systems’

These entities’ legal form varies greatly and is sometimes hard to qualify if traditional standards are used. In France alone, there are many systems of collective or shared ownership, each with its own characteristics:

  • hereditary-use commons, where land ownership relates to the commune’s private property, and the residents only have a right of use;

  • tenancy in common, where the land is privately owned but collectively managed;

  • commune sections, the most widespread form, where the land is privately owned by a legal entity under public law, which brings together a group of residents with rights and goods that are distinct from those of the commune.

These systems sprouted from feudal law and used to correspond to an agrarian economy that was generally needed for self-subsistence (feeding). This economy gradually deteriorated for a variety of interconnected reasons: changes in a society that has become less and less rural; agricultural production techniques (grains, in particular) that were not well-adapted to the specificities of mountain soil; liberal attacks based on physiocratic dogma that criticise the ineffectiveness of local collective practices; and, of course, since the time of the French Revolution and then the Civil Code, the promotion of individual property as an absolute right. Nonetheless, these systems have managed to survive over time, which is rather surprising. Their presence is still strongly felt in rural areas – mainly in mountain regions (France, Italy and Switzerland, in particular).

Contemporary economic, social and environmental actions, changes and challenges

In a contemporary context of agricultural decline, the disappearance of landscapes, declining allocations from the state to communes and the urgent need to preserve natural resources and stimulate rural areas, one has to ask which roles these communities can play to develop the mountain territories in a sustainable way.

Tourism, water and forest management, agropastoralism, services offered to the population… these village communities are involved in revitalising the mountain territories to varying degrees. Often, they are also in the middle of conflicts over the use and appropriation of resources.


The focus of this call is on collecting the results of national and especially international research to explain why so many village communities are still managing collective property in mountain areas, in what forms they do so and what the dynamics are. The goal is to understand how the specific characteristics of mountain and societal environments have enabled – and, then, were able to maintain – the collective forms of managing the commons.

Possible research topics

Several (non-exclusive) research topics can be pursued:

  • A description of these systems of collective management. Why were they better able to offer resistance in a mountain area than elsewhere (economic, social, psychological, climate, legal, political reasons)? In this respect, what role is played by altitude or the harshness of mountain life? By a collective identity and mentality? By a resistance to oppression by the central government?

  • In which mountain regions around the world are they present? (Proposals for international articles are particularly sought-after.) And what does the future hold for the European context?

  • What is their history? Are their (natural, property, moveable) resources typical for the mountain? What quantitative and/or qualitative stocktaking can be done with them?

  • Critical analysis of the potential: Do these atypical systems of ownership lack a future, or do they augur well for renewed modes of managing mountain areas in a sustainable way with regard to not only natural resources and landscapes but also the services offered to indigenous populations or to those who have resettled in the countryside? What are the strategies that the mountain village communities use to exist, resist and survive? Are they offensive or defensive in kind?

  • The place that they occupy in the management or governance of mountain territories: Are they clearly identified by public actors or the residents themselves? What are the interlinkages with the policies of other actors (municipalities, inter-municipal authorities, National Forests Office, parks, chambers of agriculture, tourist resorts, pastoral associations etc.)? What forms of democracy do they propose? What place is reserved for women?


Article proposals of between 6,000 and 7,000 characters (including spaces) in length should be sent in French (if the author is French) or in English (for non-French authors) by 1 January 2020 to

The editorial committee is composed with Jean-François Joye, Alessandro Crosetti Anouk Bonnemains and Sylvie Duvillard. Editorial coordinator: Olivier Vallade ( Final articles are expected by 1 June 2020. The article must be submitted in one of the languages of the journal: Alpine languages (French, Italian, German), Spanish or English. The author must commit to ensuring a translation of the article into a second language after review. One of the two versions must be in English. If the article is submitted by a native English speaker, the second version must be in French. Publication is scheduled for March 2021.


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