EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

Bio-cultural heritage and economies of sustainability
Location U6-36
Date and Start Time 21 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Marc Brightman (University College London) email
  • Pablo Dominguez (Autonomous University of Barcelona) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

In 2015 for the first time an agricultural practice received the status of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) from UNESCO: the alberello cultivation of the Zibibbo grape in Pantelleria. This panel aims to discuss comparatively the implications of protecting rural and forest livelihoods as ICH.

Long Abstract

Certain traditional agricultural and hunting and gathering activities, often linked to common property regimes, are increasing being recognised by researchers and practitioners not only for their intrinsic value as distinctive cultural expressions, but also, in a more utilitarian vein, as examples of good practice in terms of environmental sustainability. Unlike other forms of ICH, they are also clearly economic in character, constituting modes of production that are often central to local economies. Yet Global Change (GC, Zalasiewicz et al.), referring to the related processes of socio-economic globalisation and biophysical transformations arising from climate change, poses challenges to traditional livelihoods. Intangible cultural heritage can be used as a protection mechanism for the preservation of such practices, but objections have been raised about the potential negative consequences of doing so: that it treats culture as fixed and static, as property, and even as a commodity, sometimes leading to competing claims of ownership and to 'new inequities' (Brown).

It is well known that traditions are subject to change and adaptation, and yet cultural practices may maintain a distinctive identity or core features while adapting to changing circumstances (Sahlins); they are also part of a complex set of interactions and relationships which can include and give rise to new economic opportunities. In this spirit, we invite papers that address how distinctive bio-cultural practices that may be construed and, at least potentially, protected as 'heritage' are engaging with GC to contribute to or even generate new sustainable economies.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Cultural adaptations of traditional crops and a unique drystone landscape: the Island of Pantelleria

Authors: Antonio Motisi (University of Palermo, ITALY)  email
Giuseppe Barbera (University of Palermo)  email

Short Abstract

An analysis of the traditional technical knowledge associated with the Mediterranean dry-stone landscape of Pantelleria is presented from the point of view of the unique adaptations of cultural system to cope with the environmental constraints such as water scarcity, strong winds and lack of soil

Long Abstract

Due to its geographic location, the Island of Pantelleria has long been a site of settlements and agricultural activities facing a chronic scarcity of resources. Woody species growing deeply affected the formation of landscape and, to date, about 80% of its surface is still terraced. The dry-stone landscape of Pantelleria presents specificities both for the cultural biodiversity and the unique adaptations of cultural techniques adopted. Strong winds and water scarcity were the most determinants in shaping such cultural systems. As an example, sheltering from winds by tree dwarfing and canopy confinement within the boundary layer of the dry-stone walls can be easily identified as a common general criterion in pruning and training systems. Water saving is pursued by techniques specifically adopted for the traditional species following the general criterion of foliage reduction and aging of wood and tree scaffold branches. A prostrate low-bush shape is the typical training system for grapevine and caper; olive trees are grown with strong pruning which constrains tree shape close to the ground in an unusual tree structure. The same goals are achieved in citrus in a different way, to deal with the physiological limitation of these species, preventing the usage of strong pruning. In this case, the need of sheltering lead to develop a unique system which entirely surrounds each tree by a dry-stone wall, shaped into a "tower" named with the Sicilian vernacular term "Jardinu", allowing to avoid irrigation at all

Commodity heritage of biocultural goods in the Eastern Adriatics

Author: Jadran Kale (University of Zadar, Croatia)  email

Short Abstract

Changes upon the Eastern Adriatic cultural landscapes experienced during EU-memberships candidacy and entrance years had proved the importance of supranational factors, important in viticultural history as well as intangible cultural heritage means used for collective intellectual property protection.

Long Abstract

The Eastern Adriatics represent an example area of forging "Otherness" since the invention of borderland Morlacchi in the Enlightenment era, notorious Balkan foklore during Romanticism and subsequent revivals, up to internecine tribal hatreds from recent stereotypes. Here as elsewhere, new preservational category of intangible cultural heritage offered venues where local communities could also claim collective intellectual property upon parts of their culture. In cultural landscapes entitled with prominent biocultural heritage such claims appeared simultaneously with accession years of EU-memberships. Once more, changes of dramatic proportions in coastal landscapes exposed to vibrant natural climate were induced supranationally, now prone to global consumption.

These new developments had offered possibilities for understanding of so-called traditional landscapes, their products and associated heritage as commodities from the onset, ingrained in the concept of folklore. Recent reconceptualisation through intangible cultural heritage, autonomous reflection of an older European "Arts and Crafts" antimodernist movement, actually gave more active means of control to the collective creators. Results could be observed in a number of material and symbolic exchanges, remoulding of cultural icons and market entrances of small and soft competitors. We shall expose consequent analysis from the perspective of an ethnologist, based upon a dozen of coastal and island localities. An argument for commodity capacities of biocultural registry under control of culture creators shall be articulated. While observing legal inovations of the past two decades, possible trajectory of refined regulations is another issue for discussion between social, humanistic and natural domains which social anthropology is able to deliver.

Pragmatic or irrational: analysing a practice from Panna Tiger reserve

Authors: Varsha Upraity (International Center for Integrated Mountain Development)  email
Rucha Ghate (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development)  email

Short Abstract

In a case study from Panna Tiger Reserve, India, the logic of a conservation practice appears intangible, but understanding the its genealogy may generate an understanding of exchange beyond economics and irrational belief.

Long Abstract

This paper discusses a practice observed in a community located in the Panna Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India. Here, cattle deemed old and 'no longer useful' are released and allowed to roam freely in the forest. This is neither a common practice in other forested areas in India, nor is it a customary tradition of the indigenous communities in question. It persists despite there being profits to be made in the sale of the carcasses. This practice also has a positive ecological externality in the form of increase in the pray base for large carnivores, in particular, tigers, which were previously extinct and reintroduced to the reserve.

The authors argue that understanding the genealogy (Foucault) of the practice and the rationale behind it could provide useful input for conservation policy. Human dimension aspects are an inevitable part of conservation in multi-use and human dominated landscapes, a fact which necessitates the need for further research on the role of human interface in socio-ecological systems (Walker, Folke et. al). This paper contests the interpretation that a certain set of 'traditional' or 'non-scientific' behaviour gets transmitted through 'custom' and 'culture'. It argues, instead, that the complex processes of social learning, mitigation, and adaptation render static categories of 'traditional' and 'scientific' simplistic and in need of further analysis (Anderson). It explores the idea of traditional tolerance (Ruiz-Mallen and Corbera) to better understand the underlying mechanisms that drive social norms and the impact of this on community perception and 'the logic of practice' (Bourdieu).

Cultures and crops: assessing sustainability practices in the Alps

Authors: Lia Zola (University of Turin)  email
Laura Bonato (Università di Torino)  email

Short Abstract

The Italian Western Alpine chain in the last three decades witnessed a considerable process of depopulation, turning these areas into marginal lands. Nevertheless individual agency has recently been implemented in some villages where local cultivations have been reintroduced.

Long Abstract

The concept of "sustainable development" or "sustainability" has been and continues to be widely recognized and discussed since the 1960s (see, for instance Meadows 1970, Hawken 1993, Davidson 2005 et al.). A particularly relevant contribution to the debate has been given in the 1990s by Mohar Munasinghe who proposed the "sustainable triangle", arguing that sustainable development requires a balanced and integrated analysis from three main points of view: economic, social and environmental. Munasinghe, together with Roger's redefinition of his "sustainable triangle" represent a starting point for the case-study we would like to illustrate. The Valley of Susa, in the Italian Western Alpine chain, in the last three decades witnessed a considerable process of depopulation, mainly due to urbanization. Recent demographic and anthropological studies have highlighted that the Italian Alps are still a huge out-migration and depopulation area. In this context, the effects on the environment caused by the abandonment of agropastoral practices have extended beyond the local scale, changing landscape characters and cultural traditions and turning these areas into marginal lands, which are mostly unproductive due to soil, climate conditions, landscape features, or other such factors. Nevertheless individual agency has recently been implemented in some villages of the Valley. This is the case of some associations who aim at protecting their landscape but also at revitalizing regional economy through the reintroduction of local and historically documented cultivations such as lavender, hemp and rye. Our paper wishes to illustrate and assess merits and limits of these new sustainable economies.

Assessment of the sustainability of endangered nomadic and semi-nomadic reindeer herders’ communities in Eastern Siberia

Author: Konstantin Klokov (Saint-Petersburg State University)  email

Short Abstract

At least 3 kinds of traditional reindeer husbandry in Siberia should be included in the ICH UNESCO list. A methodology of contextualization has been used to evaluate the sustainability of 5 endangered herders’ communities. ICH protection mechanism may contribute to the development of reindeer husbandry in the cultural and political contexts.

Long Abstract

At least 3 kinds of traditional reindeer husbandry in Siberia should be included in the Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) UNESCO list: the Nenets in Yamal tundra, the Chukchies in Central Chukotka area and the Tungus in Eastern Siberian taiga. Only the first one is actually sustainable, while the others should be considered as endangered, especially taiga reindeer husbandry. Its formerly continuous area has fallen into separate loci and the number of reindeer stock has decreased dramatically. While this has been viewed as a crisis, this paper discusses how reindeer herders are adjusting their traditional herding strategies to modern conditions. A methodology of contextualization is used to evaluate the sustainability of 5 endangered reindeer herders’ communities living in different regions of Eastern Siberia. Changes in Siberian reindeer herding are analyzed according to three main types of contexts differing as to the period of their formation: a) traditional contexts that pre-existed the Soviet system, b) contexts formed in the Soviet time; and c) contexts created by post-Soviet reforms. In addition, the mathematical simulation is used to better understand the climate impact on reindeer livestock trends in different areas. Under modern conditions reindeer stock reduction is important in the economic context, but the role of traditional reindeer husbandry in the cultural and political contexts is increasing. The use of ICH protection mechanism may contribute to the development of traditional reindeer husbandry in the cultural and political contexts and make herders’ communities more sustainable.

Managing the commons in rural Emilia: resilience and challenges of a Medieval institution in the age of global change

Author: Lorenzo Mantovani (University of Bologna)  email

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.

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.

On a Tuscan "Heritage community" and the struggle for the preservation of a natural area

Author: Emanuela Rossi (University of Florence)  email

Short Abstract

In Tuscany a group of people is struggling for the preservation of a small natural humid area. The paper will focus on how this community appropriated the heritage paradigm to reinforce (and embody) the narrative upon which their battle is based.

Long Abstract

In one of the most industrialized areas in Central Italy between Florence, Pistoia and Prato an informal group of people, is struggling for the preservation of a small natural humid area from the aggressive development of factories.

This group of people could be analyzed as a form of "heritage community" that according to the Faro Convention (2005) “consists of people who value specific aspects of cultural heritage which they wish, within the framework of public action, to sustain and transmit to future generations".

In 1997 this group obtained this area to be recognized, according to a Regional Law, as a “natural protected area”. The reality although is full of contradictions. Nearby some of the small lakes, rich in avifauna, hunting is practiced in open conflict against laws for the protection of natural areas. Nonetheless the group of hunters is functional in keeping this area constantly clean from the wild, not having the local Government enough resources to do that.

In the last years this heritage community started to preserve local memories trough interviews to old peasants on farming and fishing practices no more in use. In 2009 this group of people gave birth to an association, which installed an ethnographic collection mostly linked to the agricultural past, in an old farm within this natural area.

I will focus on how this heritage community, in fighting its daily battle, appropriated the concept of “cultural heritage” (tangible and intangible) and used it in their struggle for defending this natural area.

Chicory coffee and dandelion pie: wartime diet as a bio-cultural heritage?

Author: Marketa Slavkova (Comenius University in Bratislava)  email

Short Abstract

This study discusses the problematics of food in armed conflicts in relation to issues of food security and environmental sustainability. In the centre of attention stand everyday survival strategies of affected civilian populations with a focus on the consumption of locally available wild plants.

Long Abstract

In this presentation, I suggest that the "preindustrial knowledge" of obtaining and preparing food is relevant in terms of food security and environmental sustainability also at the beginning of the 21st century. This becomes apparent during the destabilisation of food production systems, which commonly appears in armed conflicts. As Redžić argues, wars are special forms of human interaction, that go along with shortages of food, water and medical supplies and, therefore, often cause acute and chronic hunger (Redžić, 2010).

Using the example of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1990's war, I attempt to bring a closer insight into everyday survival strategies of affected civilian populations with a focus on the consumption of locally available wild plants. Redžić (2010) points out, that semi-wild and wild plants were precious source of nutrients in the Siege of Sarajevo and in other parts of Bosnia. Based on my long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Srebrenica, the area of Podrinje and Sarajevo, I suggest that such bio-cultural practices and knowledge of food self-sufficiency appear to be not only an important factor of the individual survival chances in times of scarcity but also can be seen as a form of a bio-cultural heritage.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.