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SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia.
30 June - 4 July, 2013

SIEF2013: Circulation

Tartu, Estonia; 30th June - 4th July


Labour, market and policy: European shepherds today

Location Jakobi 2, 114
Date and Start Time 01 July, 2013 at 10:30


Vintila Mihailescu (National School of Political and Administrative Studies) email
Valeria Siniscalchi (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Marseille) email
Filippo Zerilli (University of Cagliari) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This workshop focuses on European shepherds' practices, ideas, challenges and expectations as a paradigmatic case for understanding continuities and changes in the fields of labour, market, and policy under neoliberal globalization.

Long Abstract

According to many students of pastoralism, 'traditional' sheep herding in Europe is 'doomed to disappear'. On the other hand, the current transformation of sheep herding is paralleled by recognition of pastoralism as an 'intangible heritage' protected and safeguarded by international 'soft law' tools (e.g. the Unesco World Heritage Convention). Entangled between the vanishing of their 'traditional' world and lifestyle and its parallel commoditization (notably through museographic, touristic and commercial practices), sheep herders' current market strategies and moral economies, their changing labour relations and dynamics of production, property and economic arrangements, power and struggles require further ethnographic investigation.

In order to explore continuities and changes in the fields of labour, market and policy under neoliberal globalization, this panel encourages focusing on the complex relationships between local practices of European shepherds and their global and local political, economic and legal contexts.

Among the questions we invite to address are: How is sheep herding affected by migrant workers' flows across the EU? Are there any emerging patterns of labour and labor division, including gender differentiation, inequality and exploitation? How do sheep herders' labour and capital articulate with global agro-food regimes and agricultural market liberalization? Which pastoral products (milk, meat, wool, leather) reach the local market and/or global commodity chains, why and how? How does sheep herding accommodate between state and non-state policies and the EU system of agricultural subsidies known as CAP (Common Agriculture Policy)? Are any forms of cooperation and activism (e.g. trade unions, social movements, civic associations) emerging in defense of sheep herding and shepherds' rights?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Cain and Abel revisited: a cognitive-anthropological approach

Author: Vintila Mihailescu (National School of Political and Administrative Studies)  email

Short Abstract

Consistent biological, psychological and cultural differences between a pastoral and an agrarian population in a Romanian county are revisited from the point of view of more recent research in cognitive and ecological anthropology.

Long Abstract

Two rural populations, one of shepherds the other of (mainly) farmers, co-inhabiting without mixing until late after WWII in a Romanian county, have been subjected to multidisciplinary surveys during ten years. Biological, psychological, linguistic and cultural data seem to fit into a general dynamic frame of differentiation that applies not necessarily across individuals, but on a population level. Where cross-cultural data on cultural differences between agrarian and cattle breading cultures exist, the present data seem to converge. The final picture of agrarian versus pastoral cultural settings will be revisited from the point of view of more recent research on perspective taking in the broad frame of cognitive anthropology and will be confronted with a possible interpretation in terms of ecological anthropology.

Shepherds inside the slow food movement : market, regualations and activism

Author: Valeria Siniscalchi (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Marseille)  email

Short Abstract

The paper will analyze quality labels involving shepherds, to understand the points of view of different actors - shepherd, activists, institutions- involved in the processes of labellization and to understand the connections between shepherd, associations and market.

Long Abstract

The field of quality production and quality labels is extremely conflictual, a field in which forms of regulation, political logics and economic practices interact. During the last decade, Slow Food has invested more and more in the field of production extending its sphere of action from consumers to producers through projects, activities and media battles. The manifesto of raw milk, the "cheese resistance" campaign or the "presidia" of milk, are some of these projects involving shepherds. What drives shepherds to adhere to these projects? What is their role and their interest within these campaigns and projects? How the interests of one or the other interact? Products and political projects of protection and promotion, "presidia" are also economic projects subject to specific forms of regulation. The analysis allows us to observe the points of view of different actors - shepherd, activists, institutions- involved in the processes of labellization to understand the connections between the association and the market. This paper is based on ethnographic work carried out within the Slow Food movement in Italy and France from 2007 and on the analysis of some cases of French and Italian (Sardinian in particular) "presidia".

Shepherds go online: a case study

Author: Claudio Casula (University of Cagliari)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on Sardinian shepherds’ online communities and their attempt to redefine their social identity while struggling for their rights in local, national and transnational spaces.

Long Abstract

New communication technologies provided by Internet have facilitated the appeareance of an unprecedented variety of communities and social practices which deploy themselves in a virtual space highly connected and filled with everyday habits, customs and patterns. In Sardinia, the Movimento Pastori Sardi (MPS), a social movement of shepherds reunited to claim their rights, built a particular virtual space within Facebook where sheep herders attempt to construct their own group identity and to face new challenges. In addition to periodical meetings and public demonstrations, such spaces are opportunities for members, associates and sympathizers who learn about news and events, sharing their claims and establishing new social relationships. The paper focuses on MPS Facebook fanpage and other relevant blogs and social networks. Among the issues addressed are the following: are the Internet and its uses perceived as profitable by sheep herders? Have this "virtual room" been able to improve awareness and cohesion among the group? To what extent sheep herders or sympathizers are able to talk candidly? Are there rules and behaviour worth censoring? How and to which extent real-life activities concerning MPS affect its online counterpart? Finally, the paper aims to shed light on these issues by exploring how social and power relationships established between members in a virtual setting influence and change the strategies adopted by the MPS during its daily life.

The "Clocotici" sound in the grass" traditional pastoral practices and biodiversity in Maramures

Author: Anamaria Iuga (National Museum of the Romanian Peasant)  email

Short Abstract

The paper presents the connections between the traditional agricultural and pastoral practices and the biodiversity, and how these two aspects are affected by the social changes of today (migration, subsidies).

Long Abstract

There is a strong connection between the biodiversity and the agricultural and pastoral practices still in use today in the northern part of Romania. For example, the mowing begins at a time that is established by the ripeness of plants, and the signal for this is given by the plant locally called "Clocotici", the Rhinanthus angustifolius (lat.) plant; feasts and celebrations also are the main time coordinates for the begining and the ending of the transhumance in the mountains, when the summer farms go to the mountain in the beginning of May - old celebration of St. George on the Julian callendar, and when they came back in the village, on beginning of November, old celebration of St. Dimitri, on the Julian callendar. Between 2010 and 2012, together with a research team of biologists and historians of agriculture, we have conducted a research in two villages in the mountain region of Maramures, concerning the traditional agricultural and pastoral practices and how they are affected by the changes of today: migration to other countries, the rules of the subsidies that people can choose, the lack of shepherds, diminishing of the number of sheep and cows that a family will breed. The presentation will deal with the effects of the changes upon the traditional agricultural and pastoral practices, but also with the effects on the biodiversity of the region.

"A common sense rule: the milk cannot be sold below production cost": market milk price and the value of milk in Sardinia

Authors: Marco Pitzalis (Università di Cagliari)  email
Filippo Zerilli (University of Cagliari)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on fieldwork conducted within ‘Movimento Pastori Sardi’, a social movement of sheep herders mobilizing to protect their dairy farms and affirm their political agency, this paper explores the complex intertwinement between market milk price, and the value of milk according to the shepherds themselves.

Long Abstract

At current market prices, Sardinian sheep milk achieves around €0,70/liter and costs approximately €1,00/liter to produce. Hence, it is sold below production cost, despite 'a common sense rule' as reminded us by the leader of the Sardinian shepherds' movement. Drawing on fieldwork conducted with(in) 'Movimento Pastori Sardi' (MPS), a social movement of sheep herders mobilizing to protect their dairy farms and affirm their political agency, this paper explores the complex intertwinement between market milk price, and the value of milk according to the shepherds themselves. First we will try to disentangle the puzzling issue of the global and local fluctuations of the Sardinian sheep milk price in the context of the current international financial crisis. Using interviews as well as other sources we will ask how milk prices are actually established and negotiated in given transactions in which a number of individual and institutional actors participate (the international dairy industry, agropastoral cooperatives, trade unions, academic experts, policy makers and their bureaucratic apparatuses). In a second move, focusing on shepherds' claims and their prospective revolutionary projects we will scrutinize the value of milk, namely the social and economic value assigned to the action of producing milk, including a number of parallel labour activities such as forest and environmental protection, animal welfare, sustainable agricultural development etc. Finally, we will suggest how elaborating on milk price and milk value as closely intertwined the shepherds of MPS self-represent themselves as an emerging ruling class driving Sardinia towards alternatives sovereignties (alimentary, energetic, fiscal, and finally political) challenging neoliberal global policies.

The geography of milk in Transylvania: nourishing landscape through food production

Authors: Monica Stroe (National University of Political Studies and Public Administration Bucharest)  email
Bogdan Iancu (National School of Political Studies and Public Administration Bucharest / Museum of Romanian Peasant )  email

Short Abstract

The goal of the presentation is to capture the struggles of various institutional and individual actors in rural southern Transylvania to add value to local milk products and to reposition the local farmed landscape under the regulations of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Long Abstract

The recent conservation and local development efforts in the Tarnava Mare region of Southern Transylvania have been revolving around the preservation of the historic landscape of the Saxon villages. Various actors have been struggling to reconcile the traditional farming and pastoral practices (centered on cow-herding) with the European policies that have been urging change in the local rural livelihood strategies. The pressure to convert subsistence peasant households into farms also triggers radical environmental changes and landscape transformations (pasture and haymeadow management etc).

The goal of the presentation is to capture the struggles of various institutional and individual actors to reimagine farming practices and land management strategies. Recently the local actors have been facing the pressure of using the local assets (biodiversity, traditional farming) under new entrepreneurial strategies modelled by a new institutional framework (the Common Agricultural Policy and various agro-environmental schemes) and by the challenges of an emerging market of small-scale quality products. Supported by ethnographic data, the presentation follows a series of local milk and dairy producers in their efforts to add value to their products.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.