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Accepted Paper:

Managing the commons in rural Emilia: resilience and challenges of a Medieval institution in the age of global change  
Lorenzo Mantovani (University of Bologna)

Paper short abstract:

Presenting an account of an Italian common property system, the paper shows the strategies used by the commons to create a set of principles and practices for a sustainable management of the landscape and, at the same time, to adapt such traditional heritage to face the challenges of Global Change.

Paper long abstract:

The management of the environment has always needed collective efforts, and historically Emilia has been a region with a high number of commons and other cooperative experiences in Italy, some of them with a long tradition. Since the classic theory known as «the tragedy of the commons» (Hardin [1968]), different disciplines have focused their attention on such institutions, debating on their efficiency and sustainability (Ostrom [1990]). Anthropologists and historians have provided detailed descriptions of European commons in a long-term perspective, highlighting their potentials, limits and cultural meanings (Netting [1981; 1996], De Moor [2015]). Global Change, together with the recent environmental and economic crisis, has made the commons a central topic for discussing heritage and sustainability in a ‘glocal’ perspective. Even in Emilia new questions have been raised on the relationship between traditional rural practices, Global Change and the collective memories and identities that can make such institutions so resilient. This paper presents an account of the Partecipanze, rural commons established during the Middle Ages still present in Emilia, in Northeast Italy. From the beginning, their purpose has been the improvement of marginal and uncultivated plain areas, mainly forests and wetlands. Partially overcoming several waves of privatisation and statal criticism, these commons have proved to be resilient and successful experiments of sustainable communal management of rural lands. The paper aims to discuss the strategies used by the Partecipanze to adapt traditional sets of principles and practices to face the challenges of a Global Change era and to create a shared identity.

Panel P118
Bio-cultural heritage and economies of sustainability
  Session 1