Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Selling or Saving Cultural Heritage? Sicilian Protected Geographical Indication Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
by Hilton, Amanda, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2020, 382; 28152315
Abstract (Summary)

In the European Union (EU), geographical indication certifications emphasize the link between certain foods, their traditions of production, and place, such that the name of the place comes to denote the food or drink. A famous example is champagne, which can only be sold as “champagne” if it comes from the Champagne region in France and is produced in a certain way. These EU geographical indications (GIs) aim to define, codify, and protect certain food products and, by association, their producers and their places of provenance, using an intellectual property framework. This framework is meant to protect cultural heritage, as represented by the food in question and the complex socionatural systems necessary for its production. However, the bottom line in this effort at protection is the creation of market value for certified foods: selling heritage in order to save it. This dissertation research investigates the case of a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) certification awarded in 2016 to extra-virgin olive oil from the Italian island of Sicily. It asks: 1) what are the particular knowledges and practices used to produce Sicilian olive oil? And, 2) from producers’ point of view, does the PGI successfully protect olivicultural knowledge and practices, olivicultural landscapes, and producers themselves? Codifying foods and their production as intellectual property in order to certify them as place-based highlights and makes legible certain aspects of their production while downplaying others—with effects on people’s livelihoods and landscape and ecosystem health. This research combines a political ecology framework, attending to the impact of political economy on socioecological systems, with critical heritage studies’ attention to which aspects of the past are deemed worthy of protection and promotion, and to what effect. Hilton undertook 14 months of ethnographic research throughout the island of Sicily over two olive harvest seasons, working with actors involved in the various phases of olive oil production. In this dissertation, Hilton explores the deep affection and intimate connection to place expressed by producers, which may not be captured in legal-economic instruments like the PGI. Findings center producers’ experiences, narratives, and agricultural survival strategies in considering to what extent, if any, GIs may serve as an avenue of economic development based on preservation of local knowledge and practice.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Austin, Diane E.
Commitee: Blake, Emma, Banister, Jeff, Alvarez, Maribel, Krause, Elizabeth
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 82/4(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Geography, Cultural Resources Management, Food Science, Political science, European Studies, Agricultural education
Keywords: Critical heritage, geographical indications, Olive oil, Political ecology, Sicily, Italy, European Union, Champagne region
Publication Number: 28152315
ISBN: 9798684695247
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