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Fjorden, Pirsenteret


Rike Stotten, Hannes Herrmann, Markus Schermer

Department of Sociology, University of Innsbruck.

Topic: Community resilience in peripheral rural areas: experiences of a qualitative approach in the Austrian Alps

Keyword: community capitals, tourism, farming, mountain area


According to critical community resilience studies (e.g. Allen et al. 2016; Sharifi 2016; Kelly et al. 2015), the conceptual framework of community resilience is based on social, cultural, economic, political and environmental capitals and drivers. Their configuration influence the resilience or vulnerability of a community (Emery and Flora 2006; Wilson 2012; Adger 2000).

In an interdisciplinary project (sociology and ecology), this concept has been applied to a qualitative investigation of two remote rural Alpine mountain communities, Obergurgl and Vent, in the Austrian Ötztal. Both communities changed from livestock farming to the provision of tourism services as a main source for livelihood incomes. However, both are challenged by similar slow-onset disturbances such as outmigration of young people. The study highlights that both communities are facing substantial resilience challenges, however their vulnerability differs. On the one hand, Obergurgl is relying on its economic capital and drivers; its social capital (i.e. the cohesion of the community) has weakened with the structural change from a farming towards a service economy. Even if the remaining family farms are relatively resilient, their reputation within the community has lost. On the other hand, Vent is relying on its natural resources, valorizing its remote location and the agrarian landscape (see also Wilson, Schermer, and Stotten 2018) . However, their economic capital is considerably weaker.

The case studies under investigation demonstrate two different trajectories and different configurations of capitals to strive for resilience. Further, they demonstrate that an approach based on the five community resilience capitals and drivers provide a richly textured framework for understanding the subtleties of resilience pathways and transitions. However, also challenges arose with the application of the concept, such as the measurability of qualitative indicators in order to define the communities as weakly, moderately or strongly resilient. The presentation tackles thus also questions beyond the theoretical concepts, such as its applicability and the questions what hands-on outputs can be extracted to serve the local communities.

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