The MountainA Political History from the Enlightenment to the Present

The MountainA Political History from the Enlightenment to the Present

Bernard Debarbieux and Gilles Rudaz

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780226031118

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book looks at mountains from a very original perspective, focusing on political and scientific imaginaries of mountains throughout the world. It aims to study the processes through which modern societies and states "make" mountains. In other words, it focuses on the social processes at work in the identification, the qualification, and the transformation of mountains. These processes are considered as political processes, as they promote vision of what these mountain areas and populations should be. The book shows, through numerous and worldwide case studies running through the last three centuries, that the meanings of mountains have been varying a lot according contexts (times and places). Numerous political projects have been projected onto these areas: "natural borders", national emblems, exploitation of the resources located in the highlands, promotion of sustainable development policies, etc. For all these various and sometimes competing projects, there is a specific way to conceive and describe mountains. This books pays great attention to the inhabitants, especially when designated as "mountaineers", either in a positive way, like as guardians of the traditions or in a negative way, like when they are qualified as backwards communities. It starts from the deep renewal of the notion of the mountain in the Western culture at the time of Enlightment, describes the social and political effects on this renewal in Europe and North America. Then, it explains how this model was transferred to the rest of the world, through colonization and globalization, and interfered with existing local visions.