Mountains, mountaineering and modernity: a cultural history of German and Austrian mountaineering, 1900-1945
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During the Weimar Republic, mountaineering organizations sought to establish hegemony over the cultural narrative of mountaineering. Contemporary texts published by various alpine organizations positioned mountaineering as an activity reserved for a select elite, casting alpinists as masculine nationalists committed to the preservation of the Alps as their exclusive 'playground of Europe.' Until World War I, the GermanAustrian Alpenverein, the largest alpine club in the world, maintained firm control over mountaineering's master narrative. I argue that, during the Weimar years, this master narrative was subject to onslaughts from ideological opponents (such as the socialist alpine club, Die Naturfreunde), commercial competitors (the mass tourism industry in the Alps), and alternative representations of mountaineering in the cinematic genre of the Bergfilm. The profusion of alternatives to the formerly hegemonic Alpenverein narrative offered audiences new ways to imagine mountaineering, and this challenge created significant fissures within the Alpenverein itself as it struggled to sustain its dominance over the representations and cultural meanings of mountaineering. As I investigate the fracturing of mountaineering's master narrative, I consider how alpine organizations reacted to the new cultural constellations that arose in Weimar and challenged the Alpenverein's master narrative. To establish the contours of this narrative, I draw upon the Alpenverein's own Zeitschriften and Mitteilungen, and I also consult popular alpine journals, such as Der Bergsteiger and the Allgemeine BergsteigerZeitung, paying close attention to how alpine organizations articulated their critiques of the mass tourism industry and published negative depictions of the increasing modernization of the Alps. Additionally, I examine how the Bergfilm genre threatened this master narrative, and how the Alpenverein attempted unsuccessfully to blunt the genre's popularity. In its analysis of texts and films as normative cultural products, my dissertation focuses on how the culture of mountaineering was contested in the realm of narrative and visual representations. The latter chapters discuss how the Alpenverein later aligned itself with the Nazi regime, not only out of ideological affinity, but also in order to utilize the machinery of the Nazi state to reassert its full control over mountaineering's master narrative.