September 21, 2017
14:30 – 16:00
Room D0.03, main campus Bolzano-Bozen


How can ethnography take into account different scales of analysis? What changes in the way we build our fieldwork when we go out from the “village” (in the sense of Malinowski) exploring and putting together different scales of analysis? Referring to my three main fieldwork projects (a small town in the South of Italy, a province in the French Alps, and the Slow Food movement) and to my approach of anthropology of economic spaces, I would like to reflect on my fieldwork as built and delimited by specific, historically and theoretically situated research practices. My training in anthropology, in the second half of the 1980s, and my first fieldwork, in 1990 were situated in a specific Italian anthropological tradition –the scuola romana di antropologia (Roman school of anthropology) –, built on the legacies of the British social anthropology and inside one of the missioni etnologiche (Ethnological missions) of the ancient Istituto di etnologia at La Sapienza University. Long-term fieldwork in foreign countries (mostly Africa and Latin America) was one of the pillars of this anthropological approach. How was the South of Italy analyzed and what kind of place did it have in this particular anthropological framework? What kind of links did our research have with other Italian intellectual traditions and with other fieldwork projects? In the first part of my intervention, I will go back to the 1980s and to the idea of a “grande monografia etnica integrale” (big integrated ethnic monograph) elaborated by Grottanelli, which influenced the general approach to the fieldwork of people working inside these ethnological missions, including in the South of Italy. But my own research took other roads allowing me to take into account different scales of analysis, going out from the small town and looking to the regional, Italian and European policies. Then, between 2000 and 2005, the experience of an “exotic fieldwork” in the French Alps brought me to explore the political and economic mechanisms of the construction of spaces and places in a different national framework and at another level of analysis, that was no more a municipality but a province. Finally, the work on the Slow Food movement, that I carried out since 2006, in one of its peripheries (the French Slow Food association), then inside the movement’s headquarters, in the North of Italy and in some of its international hubs obliged me to change again the focus. In the last part of my intervention I will address some relevant topics in the study of food activism. What kind of tools do we need to understand the anatomy of a global movement in the field of food production and consumption? The leaders of Slow Food are particularly attentive to the external image of « their » movement, carefully guarding the intimate and daily life backstage in their headquarters. This strong protection of internal “gears” dates back to the time of the creation of the association, 30 years ago. It has become stronger over time, parallel to the increasing internal complexity, producing an extremely controversial public image of Slow Food. How can an anthropologist work on an organization that jealously defends its public image? How can we enter in the daily lives of activists? How can we combine the analysis of the political economy of a global movement with its daily and intimate functioning? I will develop the idea of a negotiating fieldwork, discussing the negotiation of an intimate and critical ethnographic relationship. This particular fieldwork confirms the necessity to take into account the long term process, the evolution over time of food activisms and, most of all, to move at different scales of observation and analysis.