Accepted Paper:

When the shepherds meet Mr Billionaire: rebellion, collaboration, and public intimacy in Sardinia  


Filippo Zerilli
Marco Pitzalis (Università di Cagliari)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on fieldwork with a social movement of Sardinian shepherds, this paper focuses on their association with Flavio Briatore (aka Mr Billionaire), and explores tensions, ambiguities, opacities and mysteries it has generated outside and inside the movement itself, affecting its ‘public intimacy’

Paper long abstract:

While the public protest of 'Movimento Pastori Sardi' (MPS) was reaching its peak (June 2011), a delegation of its members arranged a meeting at VIP seaside resort Porto Cervo with internationally famous Italian businessman Flavio Briatore (aka Mr Billionaire). MPS, a social movement of sheep herders in search of social and political legitimacy, expected from Mr Billionaire financial support in order to send a legation of shepherds to European institutions in Brussels, providing international exposure for their struggle.

Based on fieldwork within the shepherds' movement, this paper focuses on the 'bizarre alliance' (as the media described the event) and examines tensions, ambiguities, opacities and mysteries it has generated outside and inside the movement itself. Relying on conversations with sheep herders we explore how collaboration with Briatore intersect with multiple dimensions of the movement's claims, notably in the economic, political and cultural sphere. While in the opinion of few sheep herders the circumstance was simply a business opportunity to consider, according to many it was morally bankrupt and produced disrupting effects on the movement's public intimacy.

Drawing on recent discussion and critique of cultural intimacy we suggest that 'public intimacy' is a useful notion in order to frame the complex interplay between conflicting images of the Sardinian shepherds, and how these are appropriated and manipulated for different purposes by diverse subjects, including the shepherds themselves, the local political elite, and eventually an Italian billionaire keen on new business transactions. We finally ask who has brokered what, how, and to which extent.

Panel P104
The politics of brokerage: intimate interconnections and spaces of collaboration