The distinctive features of mountain pastoral families in the past, and their adaptations to both environmental and economic constraints, have been the subject of a large comparative literature. Less effort has been invested to explore the role of the family in today???s pastoral economy and sort out structural and cultural continuities from the glaring changes of the last decades. Relying mostly on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in several valleys of the Italian Western Alps, our investigation has found that contrary to some expectations families do retain a central role. However, our fine-grained study has brought to light a variety of different paths: in some cases, present-day shepherds and herders descend from families that have unbrokenly engaged in pastoralism for a long time; in other cases, younger generations have returned to pastoral professions their parents had abandoned for jobs in industry or the tertiary sector; in still other cases, it is ???new highlanders??? that turn to pastoralism and become the heirs of local pastoral knowledge. It has also emerged that, while families retain a central role, their structures have changed considerably if compared to the ones described for the remote and more recent past, and that both their size and composition and their entrepreneurial choices depend on a delicate balance to be struck between market demands, micro-demographic strategies and the availability of local resources: in the latter respect, access to communal resources to which some pastoral families are entitled by their local origin may prove crucial to the success of their enterprises.

The Role of the Family in Mountain Pastoralism - Change and Continuity. Ethnographic Evidence from the Western Italian Alps

FASSIO, Giulia;BATTAGLINI, Luca Maria;PORCELLANA, Valentina;VIAZZO, Piero
2014

Abstract

The distinctive features of mountain pastoral families in the past, and their adaptations to both environmental and economic constraints, have been the subject of a large comparative literature. Less effort has been invested to explore the role of the family in today???s pastoral economy and sort out structural and cultural continuities from the glaring changes of the last decades. Relying mostly on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in several valleys of the Italian Western Alps, our investigation has found that contrary to some expectations families do retain a central role. However, our fine-grained study has brought to light a variety of different paths: in some cases, present-day shepherds and herders descend from families that have unbrokenly engaged in pastoralism for a long time; in other cases, younger generations have returned to pastoral professions their parents had abandoned for jobs in industry or the tertiary sector; in still other cases, it is ???new highlanders??? that turn to pastoralism and become the heirs of local pastoral knowledge. It has also emerged that, while families retain a central role, their structures have changed considerably if compared to the ones described for the remote and more recent past, and that both their size and composition and their entrepreneurial choices depend on a delicate balance to be struck between market demands, micro-demographic strategies and the availability of local resources: in the latter respect, access to communal resources to which some pastoral families are entitled by their local origin may prove crucial to the success of their enterprises.
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http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1659/MRD-JOURNAL-D-14-00019.1
mountain farming; family structures; mountain pastoral systems; tradition; new highlanders; ethnographic research; Western Italian Alps
Giulia Fassio; Luca M. Battaglini; Valentina Porcellana; Pier Paolo Viazzo
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2318/153590
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