Critical perspectives on the alpine damscape

Critical perspectives on the alpine damscape

Historical Institute, University of Bern
Gefördert durch
Swiss National Science Foundation
Findet statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
27.09.2024 -
Sebastian De Pretto, Abteilung für Wirtschafts-, Sozial- und Umweltgeschichte, Universität Bern

As part of the SNSF-Ambizione research project "Staudämme und Verdrängungsprozesse im Alpenraum nach 1880 – zwischen Teilhabe und Ausgrenzung peripherer Gesellschaften ", we are organising the workshop "Critical perspectives on the Alpine dam landscape: An environmental and social history of hydropower in the Alps after 1880" at the Historical Institute of the University of Bern / Switzerland.

Critical perspectives on the alpine damscape

Apart from economic and technical historical viewpoints, the history of hydroelectricity in the Alps also shows how the widely interconnected and densely populated mountain range underwent socio-natural transformations during the age of High Modernity. In some places, the construction of dams and reservoirs led to the depopulation or displacement of entire valleys and villages. In other places, the new lakes and industrialized rivers brought financial income, cheap electricity, as well as infrastructural development and job opportunities. The workshop takes a critical look at the ambivalent development caused by the extraction of “white coal” and its numerous promises of modernisation. Within this historical context the losses and benefits of hydropower and its various stakeholders will become visible along single case studies.

Thematically, the workshop will focus on the environmental and social aspects of Alpine hydropower and its infrastructures after 1880. In addition, the workshop will open a new chapter in the energy history of the Alps and contribute to the current debates on environmental justice and sustainable energy regimes.


Welcome and Introduction – Christian Rohr and Sebastin De Pretto, University of Bern

09:20–10:30 Keynote
Vajont. A political ecology of an unnatural disaster
Marco Armiero, Autonomous University of Barcelona

10:30–11:00 Coffee Break

Currents of Empire: Reflections on Hydroelectricity in Europe’s Colonies
Corey Ross, University of Basel

12:00–12:35 Presentation 1
The Émosson dam and powerplants seen from the French side: some insight on how to deal with contested cross-border hydroelectric infrastructures, 1955-1976
Anne-Sophie Nardelli-Malgrand, University of Savoy Mont Blanc

12:40–14:00 Lunch Break

14:00–14:35 Presentation 2
Hydropower in Valtellina between gains and losses: the attitude of local communities (20th century)
Luca Mocarelli, University of Milano-Bicocca

14:40–15:15 Presentation 3
Hydroimperialism in the Habsburg Monarchy: Carniola and its hydropower infrastructure between 1880 and 1918
Sara Šifrar Krajnik, University of Bern

15:20–15:55 Presentation 4
Dams and barrages on rivers in Slovenia: Benefit or burden
Matija Zorn and Blaž Komac, Anton Melik Geographical Institute

15:55–16:15 Coffee Break

16:20–16:55 Presentation 5
From Wildfluss to a Landscape of Energy Storage: Socio-Environmental Impacts of Bavaria’s Walchenseewerk Resevoir
Marc Landry, University of New Orleans

17:00–17:35 Presentation 6
Total Development in a Federal State? Swiss Hydropower Imaginaries after 1945
Sebastian De Pretto, University of Bern

17:40–18:15 Commentary and Discussion