ESEH Conference 2023

Summer School Val d'Anniviers (Commons)

Common pool resources in the «visual turn» – collective alpine pastures, forests and waters in the first half of the 20th century

Date: 16–20 August 2023
Location: Grimentz (Val d’Anniviers)

In cooperation with the Swiss Rural History Society (SRHS), with the research platform Swiss Commons in a European Context, and with the institute «Cultures of the Alps»

The history of Common Pool Resources (CPR) has been discussed under the aspect of sustainability since Elinor Ostrom's «Governing the commons» (1990) and increasingly since she was awarded the Nobel Prize for it (2009). If one considers the classic collective resources of alpine pastures, forests and waters from this perspective, one is immediately struck by the extraordinarily dynamic development they have undergone during the 20th century. The Summer School will focus on this transformation, which we will analyse in the sense of the «visual turn» in environmental history using local historical photo collections dating from the first half of the 20th century.


The Summer School consists of lectures, presentations and excursions to venues in the Val d’Anniviers (canton of Valais) where local resources are still used as common goods. The participants will work with historical photos on collective management of alpine pastures, forests and waters above all from this region. Methodical questions on how to analyse and interpret these sources are a main topic of the workshop. All Summer School participants are expected to give a short presentation of visual historical material of their own region of research in order to get a comparative view on the phenomena of commons. These presentations are followed by in-depth discussion of all participants and lecturers. The presentation instructions will be provided to the accepted Summer School participants in early 2023. In addition, we will create together some image-based presentations over the course, which will be imbedded in the participatory platform «Swiss Commons in a European Context» (under development). The students will be awarded 5 ECTS for their participation.

  • Ben Anderson (University of Keel, history) 
  • Roberta Biasillo (University of Utrecht, history)
  • Ulrike Felsing (HKB Bern, arts)
  • Karina Liechti (University of Bern & Swiss Foundation for Landscape Conservation, Geography)
  • Tobias Haller (University of Bern, social anthropology)
  • Jesper Larsson (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala)
  • Luigi Lorenzetti (Università della Svizzera Italiana/ Laboratorio di Storia delle Alpi, Mendrisio)
  • Gaëtan Morard (Bisses du Valais, ethnobiology)
  • Monica Vasile (University of Maastricht, environmental anthropology) 

Organisors Summer School Val d'Anniviers