Contested Soil: Everyday Histories of Belonging to, Losing and Defending Place on a South Tyrolean Alp

The project 'Contested Soil: Everyday Histories of Belonging to, Losing and Defending Place on a South Tyrolean Alp' explores the notion of 'attachment to the soil' and how this is experienced and understood in everyday practices of South Tyrolians living in Europe’s largest high plateau, the 'Seiser Alm/Alpe di Siusi'. Through ethnographic and archival research, I aim to draw conclusions about processes of inclusion and exclusion, and question the role of local political mobilisation.

Taking in consideration the particular historical context of the region, "Contested Soil" will give insight into the inhabitants' everyday engagements with history and how these play into the inclusion and exclusion of individuals and groups belonging to - or not to - the soil. The research will take place in the municipality 'Kastelruth/Castelrotto', located in Europe's largest high Alpine meadow, the 'Seiser Alm/Alpe di Siusi' and will be grounded in in-depth ethnographical research (mostly focusing on everyday histories, using participant observation, walking and storytelling) as well as research on archival material (e.g. letters, historical documents etc.) and media analysis of the dominating political discourse. As part of the independent research group "Alpine Histories of Global Change: Time, Self and the Other in German-speaking Alpine region" it will question how exclusionary narratives of indigeneity allow for a better understanding of local political mobilisation. Building on my long lasting experience as a filmmaker, I aim to explore different ways of knowing and encountering the world through conducting research using visual anthropology tools. This does not just raise methodological questions, but brings to the fore a conundrum that has not yet received much attention within anthropology: how to research the “Repugnant Cultural Other” (Harding 1991) with the camera. In collaboration with other visual anthropologists in the research group I aim to contribute to closing this gap by addressing several methodological questions, e.g. how can new methods and forms of visual anthropology combined with artistic approaches bring a new perspective on the topic and its ethical challenges; and how can conducting research with the camera help establishing more nuanced, complicated, partial and local readings of people that challenge the anthropologists’ personal and political convictions, and where are its limitations?

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