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Book presentation of The Heritage Arena at the Royal Anthropological Institute, London

Cristina Grasseni and Adele Arrigoni Ravasio have co-presented the result of Grasseni’s ethnography with Val Taleggio’s cheesemakers.

On October 13, 2022 (almost three years later than initially planned, due to the COVID pandemic), Cristina Grasseni presented her ethnographic monograph The Heritage Arena (Berghahn Publishers, 2017) at the Royal Anthropological Institute in London. Introduce by David Shankland and accompanied by a talk and guided cheese-tasting session by cheese entrepreneur Adele Arrigoni Ravasio, the book presentation illustrated the recent developments, hurdles and dilemmas of small-scale cheese making in Val Taleggio, Lombardy.

The politics of scale is of paramount importance to the economic and ecologic sustainability of cheese-making as a local tradition to the bergamasque mountains. Grasseni has been researching Val Taleggio ethnographically since 1997. Her previous books Developing Skill, Developing Vision (Berghahn Publishers, 2009) and La reinvenzione del cibo (Qui Edit, 2007) focused on the ‘re-invention’ of the transhumand cheese-making tradition of the bergamini, and its collective significance for the heritage food industry in northern Italy.

EU legislation offers Protected Designations of Origin as normative tools to protect and support very local economies in a competitive world-wide market, thus ensuring the continuity of local production. On the other hand, the limitation of the PDO system is that it is meant to protect and possibly increase the marketing value of “food heritage”, without questioning how it comes to be positioned in a potentially global market that is exploitative of natural and human resources and privileges the scale and margins for profit of large-scale food industries and distribution.

Hanine Habig, Tina Arrigoni Ravasio, Adele Arrigoni Ravasio, Cristina Grasseni, and Ted Goodliffe after the book presentation
Adele Arrigoni Ravasio guiding the cheese-tasting session accompanying the book presentation.
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