ETH Zurich, Institute of History

Mountains Across Borders

Summer School | Aug. 17th - Aug. 21st 2013, Lavin
Marcus Hall (University of Zurich), Patrick Kupper (ETH Zurich)


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Participants of the fourth European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) Summer School in Lavin. © Marc Hall

Patrick Kupper – In August 2013, some 25 young academics and senior scholars gathered in Switzerland’s Lower Engadine for the fourth European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) Summer School, an event supported by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC).

“Mountains across Borders” was the subject chosen, which resonated well with the venue: the small Alpine town of Lavin, situated near the borders of both Austria and Italy. The school’s goal was bold, namely, to “identify the best ways of doingenvironmental history, using mountains and transboundaries as points of departure.”

While PhD students and post-docs were asked to present their ongoing research proj-ects, senior scholars were invited to focus on “what they see as the main challenges of doing research and producing a compelling product, with examples drawn from their own work and experience.”

We assumed that having senior scholars reflecting on their work in this way, merging personal experience and professional challenges, would be of particular interest to PhD students and junior scholars.

Feedback by the participants proved that we were right, which encouraged us to share at least some of our insights and discussions in Lavin with a wider public.

Issues that have been discussed included the following topics:

  • Diversity of mountain cultures and ecosystems
  • Topography, elevation, and seasonality as dividing or else uniting people
  • Dependencies and conflicts between highland and lowland peoples
  • Contamination, congestion, preservation, and restoration of mountain systems
  • Mountains as loci of disaster
  • Mountains as refugia during times of war or global warming