In threat situations, people become conscious of certain aspects of the society in which they live that they had never or only rarely thought about before. This can change the stories that people tell each other about themselves and others, and thus the characteristics that they attribute to one another. In turn, the borders that define membership in a group can shift. In Villariba, a proposed rehabilitation project in an area characterized by stigmatization and economic decline led to division in the local social order, and led the people of the area to become alienated from one another.
But that does not always have to be the case. Other groups have reacted to threats by closing ranks, helping each other, and by stubbornly confronting adversity. The residents of the Austrian village of Kappel, for instance, could never have imagined that the emperor would one day try to ban their religious rituals and practices. But that is exactly what Joseph II tried to do in the 1780s, directly threatening the everyday lives and the spiritual salvation of the devout residents. Unified by their faith, rituals, and proud local identity, the Kappelers refused to give in, true to the adage: anyone who doesn’t belong to us belongs to them. Representatives from the government were given a choice: either they spoke with everyone, or with no one.