The work of the Institute "Cultures of the Alps" is fundamentally transdisciplinary. We are convinced that only the combination of different expertises and forms of knowledge enables an appropriate treatment of the research and mediation areas of the Institute. This includes different scientific approaches, types of experiential knowledge and practical competences in dealing with questions and challenges specific to alpine spaces. Thus, the Institute "Cultures of the Alps" sees itself as a place of mediation: between natural science, humanities and social science approaches, between sciences, experiential knowledge and arts, between academic, cultural and political thought patterns and discourses. In this way, the Institute "Cultures of the Alps" brings different forms of knowledge and knowledge dynamics into a fruitful exchange beyond disciplinary training and conditioning

Research dimension

The research projects of the Institute "Cultures of the Alps" are situated in the field of tension of spatial-theoretical, cultural-historical and aesthetic approaches to the Alpine space. They are transdisciplinarily oriented and aim at opening up the specific forms of life and cultural practices that have emerged and will emerge in the Alps due to the manifold challenges. Thus, the Institute always sees itself as a place of reflection in order to translate knowledge, experiences and insights of the past into the future.

  1. Cultural-historical: We understand the Alps as a historically evolved space in the middle of Europe, which separates and connects different socio-cultural constellations of East and West, North and South at the same time. Here, centre and periphery, persistence and the idea of progress, a sense of tradition and innovation are directly intertwined. The special interweaving of history and stories in the Alps with the spatial and cultural practices that have emerged here offer a comprehensive reservoir for the development of space-specific perspectives for the future.
  2. Spatial theory: We understand the Alps as a special living and cultural space whose development and shaping is shaped and dependent to a very high degree on topographical conditions. The distinctive geomorphology of the mountains configured site-specific habitats and specific dynamics of exchange within the Alps as well as between intra- and extra-Alpine spaces. Therefore, we compare Alpine cultures with each other, but also with other (mountain) cultures in Europe and on other continents.
  3. Aesthetics: We understand the Alps as a space of condensed dimensions of experience, which requires specific and very different modes of perception. Aesthetics is understood in the original, broad philosophical sense - as an examination of different forms of sensory perception and the question of how these shape our understanding of the world. Dealing with the peculiarities of the Alpine region always also represents an examination of the special sources of experience that can be found in it: for example, the distinctive geomorphology and the challenging living conditions, which have given rise to a special diversity of cultural forms of expression. Accordingly, aesthetics is not only central in research, but also in mediation formats.

Main research areas

The research foci of the Institute "Cultures of the Alps" mark overarching fields of interest in which the Institute's research projects can move and exchange content, and in which the three research dimensions interact in the sense of different approaches to questions and topics. The respective projects situate themselves mainly in one of the following three focal points, but mostly not exclusively:

Forms of cultural inscription: Human activity has left many traces in the Alpine region and continues to do so - in the biosphere as well as in the sphere of culture. Tracing these traces, investigating how they have inscribed themselves in the Alpine space and in this way developing a deeper understanding of how people have lived and are living in the Alps is therefore a first research focus of the Institute.

Current projects: Stremlücke, cable cars, OXÄ, natural hazard law

The Alps as a resource: In the European context, the Alpine Space offers important resources, both material and cultural, which have an impact far beyond the Alpine regions. In the first case, these include the potential for energy production, water supply, agriculture, culinary arts and customs. Last but not least, the Alps as a leisure and recreational space are also a tourism resource. Describing, analysing and problematising the effects associated with the use of these different resources in the present and the future is therefore a second research focus of the Institute.

Current projects: Dams, Local Energy Suppliers, Plant Knowledge, Climate Strategy, Local Value Creation, Creative Transformation.

Spaces of imagination: The Alps have always been a space of imagination and projections, which have inscribed themselves in diverse narratives in the collective memory of Europe and beyond. Exploring these narratives in their complex historical change and overlaps and making them fruitful with a view to imagining possible futures for the Alpine region and beyond constitutes a third research focus of the Institute.

Current projects: Reduit, management resilience, facets of change, barns, folk song


Mediation and Publications


Completed Projects