Projects of the Research Group
Everyday Histories: Time, Self and the Other in an Austrian Alpine Community
This project explores the role of local, everyday understandings of history, tradition and belonging to place in the municipality of Millstatt in the Austrian state of Carinthia. The communities I work with are located in the Alpe-Adria region, an Alpine border triangle between Austria, Slovenia and Italy. This region has always been linked into a world of movement and interconnection: The centuries-old trading routes between the Mediterranean and Central Europe criss-crossing this region are often described as symbolic of European integration. Yet, throughout the centuries Carinthia has often been depicted as the rural, backward periphery, leading to fractious relationships with the urban centres of power. I take this awkward positioning as a point of departure to interrogate the ways local and global temporalities meet, mingle and clash. Driven by the question of how to methodologically accommodate the tension between local histories and global transformations, village ethnography forms the core methodological approach for my project. While village ethnography has proven to be a useful method for approaching processes of global change “through the looking glass” as Herzfeld (1987) put it, in the last decades the focus of scholars studying globalisation has shifted more towards urban settings. We therefore know very little about the ways people living in rural areas live with and make sense of global transformations in the everyday and how this might be linked to the growing political discontent. To gain a deeper understanding of the paradoxes of globalisation that commentators have invariably written into the domain of the city, I explicitly work with a rural lens. This “rural lens” necessitates both, a sensitivity towards rural-urban divides that have relegated many places in the European countryside to the economic and cultural periphery of a globalised world, and the often deeply exclusionary place-making practices inhabitants of rural places have developed in response. In my project I explore in how far these practices of place-making are linked to local, everyday understandings of history and belonging to place.
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 mobilization. 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. Building on my long lasting experience as a filmmaker, I aim to explore different ways of knowing and encountering the world. 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 mobilization.
Depicting Alpine Histories of Global Change
The Alps have for centuries been associated with a particular aesthetic image of the sublime that has been harnessed in order to attract tourists and visitors. This image is also based on a sense of timelessness, of traditional life and majestic nature. As such, Alpine identity and sense of belonging have formed around depictions of people and place that are not only made for local consumption, but that have been produced for a global market. The project aims to explore the role of imaging and imagining pasts, presents, and futures in the Alps through audio/visual means, as well as the tensions between representation for local and global audiences. It will do so by collecting archival material as well as producing film, photos and audio from all the research sites.
(Not) so far and distant: Colonialism in Visual Family Memories in the Alps
The colonial enterprises of European states left behind many traces in their societies - not only in the public space, but also in the private frame of their family memories. Families represent a central mode of collective memory that has hardly been investigated in postcolonial memory research until now. While in recent decades public memory symbols such as street names and monuments as well as institutions such as museums and archives have been decolonized, perceptions about colonial realities, and about the idea of ,white’ supremacy circulated cheerfully and untouched within the family framework. In this context, it is precisely the photographs brought home or sent home by colonial actors decades ago, which - as seemingly authentic testimonies - reproduce and establish racist and colonialist images of a colonial history in the supposedly apolitical framework of the family to this very day. The aim of my ongoing book project is to no longer leave the visual colonial memories uncontradicted nor unchallenged in their families, but to subject them to a critical examination and thus, decolonize them.
The colonial project of fascist Italy against the Empire of Abyssinia (1935-1941) serves as a case study for this project, which focuses on the visual productions of German speaking soldiers and their families from the northernmost province of Italy, Bozen/Bolzano, in order to make the ambivalences of colonial wars visible. For the purpose of decolonizing the colonial pictures, which are still kept in 'South Tyrolean' attics today, they will be embedded in their historical contexts, i.e. their (re-)production, circulation, appropriation/rejection and tradition will be examined, and their essentialist visual meanings deconstructed. This book project is located at the intersection of postcolonial, memory and visual culture studies and uses a methodically combined approach.