International History and Politics
30 November 2023

Alessandro Ambrosino wins Doc.Mobility grant

We are very pleased to announce that PhD candidate, Alessandro Ambrosino has been awarded an Doc.Mobility grant from the University of Geneva and the Geneva Graduate Institute in order to spend his last semester in Paris to complete his research.

The Invention of Alpen-Adria.

Processes of Region-Building in Sensitive Border Areas (1960s-2010s)

Due to nation-building processes between the 19th and 20th century, people living in the Alps-Adriatic region, that is, the area around the borders of today’s Italy, Austria and (ex)Yugoslavia, suffered disintegration and violence. During the Cold War, central authorities and international actors such as the CIA and NATO militarized the territory and controlled national borders meticulously. A climate of suspicion persisted and transformed the border into a symbolic periphery of confrontation between “East” and “West” blocs.

My thesis analyses how border communities challenged this divisive imaginary and disrupted hegemonic narratives of an ideologically segregated Europe. By developing cross-border cooperation since the late 1950s, local intellectuals, policymakers, tourist operators and other actors devised the idea of “Alpe-Adria” to depict the area as a transnational region where to cultivate friendship, peace and common development. The availability of rich documents of these initiatives, as well as oral testimonies of “key witnesses” of cross-border practices, has enabled me to question the Manichean vision of a divided continent and to reframe the history of Cold War Europe from the perspective of borderlands. I argue that borders are not only the ultimate proof of state power but also sites of possibilities, true landscapes - or "borderscapes", as some authors have called them - where political innovation germinates through the agency of local actors. Far from being subordinated to “centres”, “peripheries” have influenced national and international networks as much as central authorities. The Alps-Adriatic region thus illuminates the autonomy of “borderlanders” in wider contexts and stands out as a paradigmatic example to rethink European contemporary history.