Slow Water


Water is the essence of life. Not only do we use it to grow our food, to replenish and clean our bodies, it also has a sacred meaning for many peoples of the world. Throughout the globe there are people who struggle to find enough water for their daily needs, there are others who have little or no access to clean water and there are those whose basic livelihood is threatened by floods and an overabundance of water. The management of water resources is one of the most pressing global issues.

Yesterday at Terra Madre in Turin, Italy, farmers, engineers, students, nomads, activists and academics from all over the world met to share the challenges they face due to an overabundance or scarcity of water. During the Water and Agriculture Workshop a number of central themes came to light from the need to promote water-wise farming practices to the privitisation of the world’s water supply that goes against the basic human right of free access to a safe water.

The workshop participants decided it is necessary to create a Slow Water network that will promote:

  • Exchange of techniques, technologies, knowledge and seeds
  • Advocacy that aims to raise awareness of the current water crisis
  • Network with groups that are working to solve water-related problems
  • Lobby in support of rights related to water

The first step has been taken and we are joining together to take action and work together. I have volunteered to begin the initial organisation of the Slow Water network, but we will need many more hands and minds all over the world. If you would like to get involved, please get in touch.

Le radici e gli innesti


Le radici e gli innesti: Saperi del cibo e della terra tra i Kanak della Nuova Caledonia

Università degli Studi di Torino – Giornata di studi

Lunedì, 27 ottobre, 2008

Sala Lauree della Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia
Palazzo delle Facoltà Umanistiche
via Sant’Ottavio 20 – Torino

I will be participating in this roundtable discussion on food in New Caledonia, being held at the University of Turin in conjunction with Slow Food’s Terra Madre events. The event will be held in French & Italian but all are welcome. I look forward to seeing you there.

Not in the field nor the vineyard


Perched on top of Rabaja just a short distance from Barbaresco, I sat waiting in the dark for the massive cellar door to open. A sweet smell of wine filled the air and the slow buzz of equipment filled my ears as Roberto flipped on the lights and went about his business of checking tanks. Wine making does not sleep this time of year and the process of fermentation must be constantly monitored and controlled. A year of hard work is now riding on the technical and artisanal ability of the vignaiolo. The cantina is where nature, culture and technology come together to produce wine, the embodiment of the complexity of these relations. This is what has been occupying my mind since I came back to the Langhe in Septemeber. Each day when I look out at the hills as I ride my bicycle to Pollenzo, I can’t help but feel the excitement and tension of the harvest.

When I returned to Piedmont, I had hoped to take part in the grape harvest, to learn first hand about life in the vineyard and the cellar this time of year. Sadly, I have found myself spending more time behind my desk than out in ‘the field’. There are a number of reasons for my lack of access to the sloping vineyards of the Langhe, but the main problem is the labour legislation that governs seasonal work, in this case the grape harvest. Between regulations that block foreign workers (I am a foreigner of the lowest order as a non-EU citizen or extracomunitaria as they say in Italian) and the unions that control seasonal labour, I have found myself gazing at the vineyard and peaking through the door of the cellar as a distant spectator. This is a truly frustrating situation for an anthropologist who likes to get her hands dirty and sweat next to the other workers.

Despite numerous contacts and some well-developed relationships with wine producers in this area, I have not insisted on taking part in the harvest. In Italy there is usually a way to get your foot in the door if you are persistent. I have not done this: I would hate for my friends and informants to incur a costly fine because of my presence in their vineyard. This is not the first time ethical issues have kept me from fieldwork and I have had to redesign my research. Practicing ethnography requires flexibility and creative thinking.