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Mountains and New Ways of Building Knowledge

Call for papers: Deadlines : 30 April 2020 (abstract) and 31 October 2020 (full article). Guests editors : Isabelle Arpin (Université Grenoble Alpes, INRAE, LESSEM) and Anne Sgard (Université de Genève. Département de géographie et environnement). With Coralie Mounet, for JAR/RGA (Université Grenoble Alpes)


Contemporary societies have to tackle “wicked” problems characterized by their scale, complexity and a diversity of perspectives, as well as a context of uncertainty. Increasingly, the thinking goes that such problems cannot be properly understood by researchers from a single discipline or even by researchers alone. Therefore, the latter are encouraged to find collaborators across disciplinary and academic boundaries and to find and implement “new” ways of building and spreading knowledge.

There are many options, some of which may overlap. Researchers can collaborate with colleagues from a growing number of other disciplines or even associate in novel ways in the form of “studies”; they can collaborate with professionals from any sector (public, private, voluntary) outside the academic sphere or even enlist the help of amateur citizens. In turn, new research tools, methods and practices have to be developed.

This collaborative turn is visible in Alpine research. In recent years, organisations have been set up and research programmes launched that not only claim a privileged link to the mountains but also insist on the collaborative or participatory dimension of their research: e.g. the Alps workshop area and the Labex ITEM (the French Alps), the Mountain Research Initiative–led “Education for Sustainable Mountain Development” programme (the Alps) and the Belmont Forum’s “Mountains as sentinels of change” call for projects in 2015 (on a global scale). The mountain is readily presented as a privileged place where to devise, implement and promote these new ways of building knowledge and experimenting with different forms of knowledge hybridisation.


The aim of this issue of the Journal of Alpine Research/Revue de Géographie Alpine is to debate the relationship between these contemporary transformations of research and the mountain. Three open-ended and non-exclusive research topics are provided here for potential articles:

Topic 1: A research transition?

Are these transformations particularly significant, even ground-breaking, in mountain regions? In some mountain regions? At what scales? Do they take specific forms? Is there adequate justification for using the term “research transition”? This qualification, which is based on novelty and transformation (new ways, new collaborations, new objects etc.), also needs to be questioned. What makes research new? Who judges, measures and legitimises it? Does research in/on/for the mountains stand out from this transition? And is the term “collaborative turn” appropriate here? Are new researcher and expert profiles emerging in relation to the new research practices?

Epistemologically oriented contributions are sought to deal with this topic. A historical approach could also shed light on the status of mountains and Alpine research in science history: Specific? Ground-breaking? Marginal? This approach to the context can also enrich comparative contributions.

Topic 2: What is the purpose of the mountain?

What roles do mountains play in these transformations? Experimental? Promotional? As a means of dissemination? Which of the mountain’s attributes do these roles mobilise? Are there forms of an instrumentalisation specific to the mountain? Who are the players in this process of linking the mountain with new ways of building knowledge? Are there any original forms of disseminating and circulating knowledge? What are the questions that the sponsoring bodies ask the mountain and the researchers? What do they imagine the mountain “laboratory” to be? Do they expect specific answers? How do researchers interpret these questions, and do they intend to answer them? Does research into/on/for/from the mountain take on its own controversial or even subversive forms?

Critical approaches are expected in order to deconstruct the image of the mountain in Alpine research and to analyse the positioning of sponsors, researchers and their partners in relation to the dominant research currents and stances. This more political line of research invites us to question both the upstream – i.e. the orders and their formulation, the financing and its logic – and the downstream aspects of research – i.e. the methods of disseminating results, their actors, recipients and media.

Topic 3: What is the purpose of the research?

How does research (and the way it is produced) affect knowledge about the mountain, and how does it relate to this knowledge? What is the effect on the way the mountain is managed and represented? And on the way people live there? How effectively are contemporary social and environmental problems addressed? And the challenges of sustainability and social and spatial justice as manifested and expressed in the mountains? Do they foster new conceptions, representations and categorisations of the mountain? Does the ideal of renewing local democracy, which is often implicit in this collaborative turn, become visible in the productions? How do the sponsoring bodies deal with the results, and what is the strategic objective?

This line of research questions the effects, in the broadest sense, of research, as well as their transferability, use and acceptability. The question of evaluation could also be explored.

This call is seeking articles that will allow us to question – through and from the mountains – the forms, processes and effects of “new” ways of building knowledge. It also aims to encourage the reflexivity of researchers who contribute to this evolution and question the how and the why of a fondness for/reliance on Alpine research. The articles may put forward theoretical reflections or share concrete experience, as long as the issue of the mountain in research practices’ transformation is effectively explored. Collective contributions and papers that go beyond the Alpine context are also welcome.


An extended abstract (between 6,000 and 7,000 characters in length, along with about 10 references) is expected by 30 April 2020. It should include the title, affiliation of the authors and a brief presentation of the article’s context and objective. In the case of an empirical contribution, it should also cover the theory, the field, the method and main results; in the case of a theoretical contribution, it should include the theory and the argument. After the authors are contacted at the end of March, the full papers whose abstracts are selected should be submitted by the end of October 2020. Publication is scheduled for mid-2021. The editorial committee is composed with Isabelle Arpin ( and Anne Sgard ( With Coralie Mounet, for JAR/RGA (Université Grenoble Alpes). Editorial coordinator: Olivier Vallade (

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.


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