Accepted Paper:

"They cannot teach me how to be a shepherd": sheepherding, neoliberalism, and 'animal welfare' in post-peasant Sardinia  

Authors:

Filippo Zerilli
Marco Pitzalis (Università di Cagliari)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on fieldwork among a social movement of Sardinian sheep herders this paper explores their discourses and practices of ‘animal welfare’ and more generally the way they experience and imagine the shepherd-animal relation, including ideas about animal care, animal sensitivity, animal desires...

Paper long abstract:

Sheepherding, a time-honored work in Sardinia often romanticized and increasingly commoditized is dramatically changing in recent years also due to the pressure of policies and regulations enforced by regional, national and supra-national institutions such as the EU. The most authoritative legal framework at European level, the common agricultural policy (CAP) has notably adopted a number of measures in order to implement the 'best practices' in specific sectors, including 'animal welfare'. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among a social movement of sheep herders mobilizing in order to affirm their political agency, this paper explores their discourses and practices of 'animal welfare' and more generally the way the shepherd-animal relationship is currently experienced and imagined by the shepherds themselves, including their ideas about animal care, animal sensitivity, animal desires etc. The paper will notably focus on two aspects: the actual functioning of the 'animal welfare' courses organized by Sardinia regional research agencies and institutions, and the public debate over recent scandals provoked by the compulsory injection of the vaccine against the Bluetongue, a viral disease of ruminants affecting Sardinian sheep. The purpose of the paper is twofold: on the one hand it will highlight the controversy between the shepherds' practical 'traditional' knowledge and the knowledge produced by the expert subjects imposing the adoption of scientific protocols; on the other hand it will suggest how the shepherds themselves are subtly (self-)included within the hegemonic developmentalist discourse of bureaucratic neoliberal rationality.

Panel Rur001
Ethnography of rural spaces: between utopia and neoliberalism