Leaf on snow


The research projects of the Uri Institute Cultures of the Alps are situated in the field of tension between spatial-theoretical, cultural-historical and aesthetic approaches to the Alpine region. They are transdisciplinary in orientation and aim to explore the specific ways of life and cultural practices that have emerged and will emerge as a result of the diverse challenges in the Alps. The Institute thus always sees itself as a place of reflection in order to translate knowledge, experiences and insights from the past into the future. We never see the entire Alpine arc as a closed unit, but rather as an open system in communication with the surrounding European region and its demands and projections in correspondence with global social and planetary geological upheavals.

1. cultural-historical

We see the Alps as a historically evolved space in the middle of Europe that both separates and connects different socio-cultural constellations from east and west, north and south. Here, center and periphery, inertia and ideas of progress, awareness 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 developed 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 organization is shaped and dependent to a very high degree on the topographical conditions. The pronounced geomorphology of the mountains configured site-specific habitats and specific dynamics of exchange within the Alps as well as between inner- and extra-Alpine spaces. We therefore compare Alpine cultures with each other, but also with other (mountain) cultures in Europe and on other continents.

3. aesthetic

We understand the Alps as a space of condensed dimensions of experience that require specific and very different ways 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 is always also an examination of the special sources of experience that can be found in it: for example, the striking geomorphology and the challenging living conditions, which have given rise to a special diversity of cultural forms of expression. Accordingly, aesthetics are not only central to research, but also to communication formats.

The research focus areas mark overarching fields of interest in which the Institute's research projects can move and exchange content. The three research dimensions interact with the questions and specific topics in the sense of different approaches. The respective projects are mainly situated in one of the following three focal points, but usually 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 region and thus developing a deeper understanding of how people have lived and continue to live in the Alps is therefore a primary research focus of the Uri Institute.

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The Alps as a resource

In the European context, the Alpine region 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, cuisine and customs. Last but not least, the Alps as a leisure and recreational area are also a tourist resource. Describing, analyzing and problematizing the effects associated with the use of these different resources in the present and future is therefore a second research focus of the Uri Institute.

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Spaces of the imagination

The Alps have always been a space of imagination and projections that have inscribed themselves in the collective memory of Europe and beyond in a variety of narratives. A third research focus of the Uri Institute is to explore these narratives in their complex historical changes and overlaps and to make them fruitful with a view to imagining possible futures for the Alpine region and beyond.

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