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Materialities of Obsolescence: A Study of Snow, a Season and the Changing Conditions in the Swiss Alps

Author Kiah RUTZ
Director of thesis Prof. Dr. Mareile Flitsch
Co-director of thesis
Summary of thesis

The Alps, as a frontier zone of climate change, have to face an acceleration of temperature increases and an exacerbation of weather phenomena at almost two times the rate of the global average. There are warmer winters, more unreliable snowfall, changing precipitation patterns and hotter summers. In this project, I aim to study the diverse human adaptations and re-orientations of social, economic, (agri)cultural and political nature to climatic changes in the Swiss alpine region. Water in all its forms and in different seasons is one of the main media through which climate changes become visible. Along different aggregate states of water, such as snow, artificial snow, ice, snow- and ice melt, rain, lakes and rivers, I aim to understand changing life in the Surselva valley. I will investigate the relationship of local stakeholders in various industries, such as tourism, agriculture, electricity, and forestry, to water and other resources, the surrounding landscape, the climate and thus capitalism and globalization. My investigations will also take into consideration Alpine heritage, sentiments of nostalgia, identity and nationality in this context of changing conditions and the threat these pose to established lifestyles. Ultimately, this project will consider ideas of the future and questions of progress as humans are facing a future where technological progress is no longer the solution to global problems and where long entrenched ideas that equate technology with progress are being renounced.

Status beginning
Administrative delay for the defence 2026