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Geoffrey Atherton and Robert Proctor

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South Tyrol is a trilingual province (German, Italian, Ladin) in the northeast of Italy, which Italy annexed from Austria in 1919. Social tensions had already begun to develop between the different linguistic groups in the region at the end of the 19th century and were exacerbated during the Italian Fascist Era (1922-1943), when German- and Ladin-speaking South Tyroleans were forcefully denationalized and “Italianized” through the implementation of anti-Austrian regulations. This included the suppression of German and Ladin cultural expression within the region’s urban landscape through the demolition of “Austrian” monuments and the construction of “Italian” ones.

Although some scholars claim that the people of South Tyrol now maintain peaceful relations, the society remains divided. This paper demonstrates how South Tyrol’s architecture and urban landscape have come to reflect historical tensions between linguistic groups and stand as symbols of divided cultural memories in the region today. Efforts have been made to decrease social strains in South Tyrol and to create a unified regional identity by “neutralizing” contested spaces in the region. This paper deconstructs these efforts to “neutralize" contested spaces and to rework cultural memory and reveals the issues associated with attempting to establish social unity while simultaneously avoiding a full confrontation of historical controversy. This paper emphasizes the fact that social tensions can only be eased naturally with time and through an honest confrontation of the past.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.