Accepted Paper:

Re-inventing food: ethics and politics of tradition  

Author:

Cristina Grasseni (Utrecht University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is based on ethnographic work on the "re-invention" of traditional mountain cheese in the Italian Alps. It highlights the many possible relationships between tradition, ecology, politics, local and global distribution, tacit knowledge and technification with a view to render an ethnographically rich scenario for the analysis of ethical consumption.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers consumers and consumption in terms of the dialectics between the "values" of traditional production and the relationship between market and politics.

How effective is a focus on traditional recipes and local products in affecting commercial food provision and its social effects on regional economies?

The relationship between markets, ethics and politics comes to the fore if one tries to evaluate the many possible relationships between tradition, ecology, local and global distribution, tacit knowledge and technification. My ethnographic work on traditional mountain cheese in the Italian Alps, and how it is being "reinvented" (La reinvenzione del cibo, Verona, Qui Edit, 2007, www.quiedit.it ) is relevant to the issue of ethical consumption in different ways:

- for its many links with the Slow Food movement and its sometimes controversial impact on local economies;

- for the ways in which local recipes of "niche products", such as "alpage" cheese, are being recontextualised within projects for sustainable development and eco-tourism;

- for the particular visual strategies with which it is being marketed and "reinvented";

- for the political struggle and conflicts that the reinvention of traditional foods bring about in local communities and regional economies.

Debate around the preservation of local and traditional foods is heated, whether it focuses on authenticity or economic viability, and the two aspects are often entwined. The dimension of local development and the real economic interests lying behind the rediscovery of traditional recipes is an interesting lens through which "ethical consumption" can be read.

Panel W001
Ethical consumption: consumers and producers, markets and ethics