Author:Lorenzo Mantovani (University of Bologna)
Paper short abstract:
Presenting an account of the history and ethnography of an Italian collective property system, the paper shows how the topic can become a fruitful field for a trans-disciplinary collaboration and open up new perspectives for discussing the relationship between humans, non-humans, and environment.
Paper long abstract:
This paper seeks to understand how specific groups collectively shaped and changed the landscape they lived in. It begins with an account of the so-called Partecipanze Agrarie, which is one of the few forms of collective property established during the Middle Ages still present in Italy. From the beginning, the purpose of these commons was the improvement of uncultivated areas, mainly woods and marshes; but from the 19th century they had to resist several new aimed laws against collective properties. As a result, some of those commons disappeared and others had to change their statutes by closing the group in a patrilineal system and improving land drainage. From this emerged opposite views regarding the relationship between man and environment.
In a long-term perspective like the one pursued here, the traditional Western idea of the nature-culture dualism becomes problematic. A trans-disciplinary approach linking anthropology, environmental history and STS studies offers a new outlook on social, institutional and environmental change - emphasizing what Tim Ingold called the "temporality of the landscape" (2000). It provides a deeper insight into the creative strategies used over time by the commons to manage their collective resources and face new changes and threats. Moreover, it adds useful analytic tools for showing the role of non-humans and of new technologies in shaping a "hybrid landscape" where nature and culture entangle. The study of collective properties can provide a prolific field of collaboration for anthropologists investigating the human-environment relationship, and alternative strategies for land ownership and management.
Rethinking research topics in the Anthropocene: anthropological collaborations in global environmental change