Social and economic history - economic political geography

Saturday, April 20, 2013 -
10:45 to 12:30

Lecture in economic-political geography: borders and borderland in Upper Adriatic space

Introduction: territory - in any significance and at any scale - is the “dimension” in which the human beings, individually or organized in groups, develop their action. Therefore it exerts a certain influence on any activities, sometime facilitating, sometime impeding them, sometime configuring obstacles, sometime essential resources (water, arable land, energetic resources). This for any function, for security (with social organization using natural territorial reliefs, topographies and hydro-graphies as defense barriers), for mobility and economics (using environmental resources for production, steams and rivers as transport routs); and for culture, with peoples identifying their selves in a certain landscape, intended as a system of signs, eventually recognized as a “home”. In all these circumstances, the territorial phenomena are “used” occasionally or systematically as production instruments, as communication codes, and as references for any initiative, evidencing eventually a feedback: in any circumstances, the two dimensions - the human society and the environment - are exerting a mutual influence, reciprocally conditioning each other. This is the main target of the geographical study, and as well of this lecture/excursion about the upper valley of Isonzo (or Soča, Aesontium, Lusinc, Sontig… or … depending on the name we would like to attribute to it!). It is an occasion for comprehending in which ways territory does condition social and cultural organizations, alternately dividing and connecting peoples and institutions, in a place – between Upper Adria and Eastern Alps, the Balkan and the Italian peninsulas and the Mitteleuropean hinterland – since the ancient times settled and crossed by peoples of different provenience.

The lecture will discuss consequently the sequence of the arguments presented in occasion of the excursion April 13th, namely the several landscape’s unities observed, chosen among the questions listed as follows:

a) The “border differentials”: problems & opportunities induced by differentials of goods and services prices for private consumers, institutions and firms; the question of the “fiscalità di vantaggio” (fiscal advantages policies), of “competition among territories”, configuring sometime the risk for a kind of “international dumping” (assuming neo-mercantilist attitudes); companies’ de-localization tendencies, inducing “tensions” and disequilibria, with “wave” of movements impoverishing suddenly some economic sector (e.g. “bencinski turizm”).

b) The question of the invisible borders: the borderline as discontinuity among cultural systems (assuming the culture as a flexible set of behaviors patterns, social attitudes, codes, values etc.); the risk for continuing formation of new “invisible” barriers, with  consequent administrative, economic and financial (bank) gaps, exerting potentially reciprocally destructive effect (attraction) on regional structures “on the other side” of the border; the coexistence in this “borderland” of several systemic differential dyads (e.g. the couples I - Slo, I - Aut, Aut - D, Slo - Aut, Slo - Cro, Cro - H, Cro - BiH etc.), with the consequent risk for “domino effects” and political feed back (“Euro-skepticism”, neo-nationalistic and populist waves etc.).

c) The question of the “European borderland”: considering that actually the whole Mitteleuropean space is a borderland (no place is distant more than 100/150 km from a borderline), no administrative/ tax/ custom/ financial policy can be considered truly effective; therefore the inter/state common planning policy it to be considered a priority (because unavoidable).

d) Description of local cultural patterns and discontinuities (cultural borders): traditional “genre de vie”; ecological calendar; vernacular architecture; material culture; local ethnicities and identity formation processes; ethno-linguistic differentiations and fragmentation; recent tendencies with emerging of innovative identities; standardization/globalization pressure; revival of neglected identities and search for “lost generations” of obliterated (“forgotten” or “forbidden”) ethnicities.

e) Description and classification of new social landscape units: from the rural to the urban, post industrial and post modern, from the abandonment to re-migration and amenity settlements; in-, out- and re-migration processes with formation of a mixed society.

f) Actual land use tendencies and transformation patterns: abandonment of mountain peripheries in late modernity (appearance of “ghost towns” on mountain valleys); growth of industrialization- urbanization poles; late modernity production de-structuration tendencies (post fordist, downsizing) with emergence of industrial districts (scattered settlement production pattern, Cividale/Manzano area); post modern and post urban current tendencies (amenity settlement, multiple dwelling, “second homes” proliferation, agri-touristic facilities, “Casino” tourism); the “return to land” hypothesis; potential conflicts among contrasting uses of environmental resources (e.g. between industry and tourism, infrastructures and agriculture).

g) Primary economic activities: environmental, energy, row material and agro-food (primary) resources of the area (hydropower, wood, pasturages etc.); agricultural production schema and rural units with regard to different altitude, climate belt and geo-morphological milieu - alluvial plain, river plain, hills, mountain slopes, high mountain remote areas, Karst plateau.

h) Infrastructures for commerce, energy, flows and relations in any sense: information, ideas, cultures, goods, persons (long range and local tourism, trans-frontier commerce); pipelines, energy and electric power plants in use and in project; long range transport facilities; borderland commuting; regional commuting and transports; projects for improvement of logistics and local inter-modal points; communication and transport network from the ancient times (Ambre route) to the “Adriatic- Baltic” trans-European corridor (last segment).

i) Infrastructures for politics and territorial organization (security, planning, controls etc,): residuals of borders facilities and structures of the Cold War times (the “Osimo road” connecting Nova Gorica with the Slovenian Brda/Collio, abandoned caserne and military exercises areas etc.); recent constructions and relative environmental impacts problems (territorial consuming and late modern “saturation”, territorial “fragmentation” induced by large-scale infrastructures etc.); new projects.

l) Historical traces: from ancient times, Roman times, Medioevo times to pre-modern, modern, post modern and post industrial; the evolution of the border in any sense: technological, political, territorial; evolution, transformation and adaptation of political geographical units from the autonomous / self referential rural unit to territorial nation-state, to EU unification, post modern fragmentation and “globalization” processes.

m) Territorial macro-tendencies and organizational layers: spontaneous archaic; ancient Roman organization with “centuriatio” and roads network; early and late Medioevo “evangelization” paths at local and long-range (starting from Aquileia to the continental hinterland); the pre-modern autonomous rural community; pilgrim routes and sanctuaries network (Svetagora/Montesanto, Staragora/Castelmonte, Lussari/ Sv.Višarje/ Luschariberg) until Reform and Contro- Reform times; “incastellamento” processes; late Medioevo formation of network of villages, churches and castles (early stage of a “territorial state”); merchants routes with seasonal fairs and early markets centers; modern era communications network development (railway, bridges, modern roads etc.); the “nation-state” 19th Ct. centre-periphery planned structures; industrial settlement in different stages (starting from 19th Ct.); modernist urbanization patterns; industrial facilities; the socialist town (Nova Gorica).

n) Observation of historical landscape, namely of “memorial” historical/political points: war memorials and monuments of the different parts, WWI Trench Open Air Museum on the Karst plateau (Monte S.Michele, Krn/ Monte Nero); Österreich-Ungarisch Soldatenfriedhof (WWI cemetery) bei Volčja Draga, and Bovec; Capt. Hauptmann Napoleonic war memorial in Bovec; partisan hospital Bolnica Franja (Cerkno); WWI “ossario” at Oslavia and Kobarid/Caporetto; Jewish cemetery bei Rožna Dolina with grave of the famous Italian philosopher Carlo Michelstaedter (1887-1910); the question of the elaboration of a “joint historical narrative”, recognized by the several parts, and the question of the formation of a self-critical attitude without risk of loosing in “self esteem” for institutions and populations (as pursued by the critical geopolitics, namely the contradiction between the “closed” and the “open” identities”, the “local belonging” and the “cosmopolitan” attitude).

o) Natural, cultural and environmental resources for a new (peripheral e.g. anti/central) development model: recent trends in sport tourism in Upper Soča valley (Mitteleuropean extreme sport favorite arena: river “jumping”, parasailing, kayaking, canyoning etc.) taking benefit from peculiar environmental characteristic (such presence of hot wind currents, remoteness and wilderness of the river stream).

p) Development of further trans/frontier and innovative tourism activities: bio-farm, elite-eko/luxus and wine tourism routes on Collio/Brda; slow tourism approach; cultural joint-memorial celebrative tourism (100 Year WWI anniversary next year preparations) and revival / historical events (Gorizia E’storia festival, Tolminski puntarji celebration etc.).


Group work/ workshop: The “Middle-European borderland” and the question of the border differentials

Case study 1: reconstruction of a balance sheet / cost structure for a single production units - a family run hotel, a bio-farm, an artisanal company, a mall/ shopping centre (excel - simulation), comparison among different units on the different side of thye border;

Case study 2: reconstruction of prices structure for a panel of products and services (simulation of border differential in economic sense);

Case study 3: mapping of a list of “joint” trans-boundary cultural/historical sites and memorial monuments;

Case study 4: description of a trans-boundary itinerary for innovative and “environment friendly” forms of tourism (slow-tourism, eno/gastronomic, agri/food, eko, luxus, bio/organic, extreme sport etc.);

Case study 5: measurement of % of territory and population lying in the borderland belt (100/150 km distant from the borderline); accessibility index; cartographic exercise

Case study 6: measurement of integration on the borderland; purposes of indexes, e.g. comparative discussion of public transport networks considering time table (for commuting, study, work, schools, accessibility of public facilities etc) and “mode” (bus, train, etc.).