Food Heritagisation and Tourism. Following the Cheese in the Italian Dolomites
The Italian writer Italo Calvino in his book Mr. Palomar describes a scene when the title character is standing in line in a cheese shop and in front of him are displayed cheeses of every form, smell and taste. While observing these specialities Mr. Palomar realises that “behind every displayed object [is] the presence of the civilization that has given it form and takes form from it” (Calvino, 2007, p. 73). This thesis aims to explore what ‘gives form and takes form’ from the mountain cheese of the Valle del Primiero in the Italian Dolomites. Food is the essence of life and we all need food to survive. However, food is much more than simple sustenance and it is deeply part of who we are. Food is part of the roots of a community and thus it is embedded in the culture of a place and the identity of its people; it is a heritage resource. At the same time food is a touristic attraction. Each destination offers experiences associated with its own particular type of food and thus creates different foodscapes. As a result, food is part of the process of heritage-making occurring in a locality as well as of tourism. The two processes are interrelated and this study aims to explore this intricate play. While the implications of the promotion of food heritage resources for tourism have been investigated, the construction of the food heritage resources within the locality and their implications for tourism need more attention. This research aims to explore this side of the relationship and thus to explore the role of food heritage for a destination and its community. I conducted 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the Valle del Primiero over which time I met malgari (mountain farmers who lead the cattle from the village barns to the mountain pasture), farmers, cheese makers, hospitality providers and members of the local Slow Food condotta. These represent the different communities of practice of the locality involved in the production, transformation, preparation and promotion of the cheese. Through the observations and reflections recorded in fieldwork journals, the informal conversations, the semi-structured interviews and the focus group discussions, I investigated the multiple voices and perspectives of these communities of practice around the local cheese. With the support of Actor Network Theory I organised the different narratives in four versions of cheese which I named Genuine Cheese, Touristic Cheese, Official Cheese and Cheese of Belonging. The emergence of four stories about the same cheese reflects the fact that the cheese is part of a worldmaking process that is constantly created and recreated through the mobilisation of the different actors. Therefore, even if the physical reality of the cheese is singular, the social reality reflects a composite cheesescape that expresses a multitude of voices, positions, elements and practices. Furthermore, the analysis of these versions of cheese also reveals how food heritage, as a tourism related resource, can be part of a process of encounters and negotiations that ultimately lead to the creation of a new sense of belonging between the members of the community and their place. Specifically, the illustration of the Cheese of Belonging and the proposed ‘Food of Belonging’ triangle demonstrate a process through which the communities of practice realise, recognise and adhere to a common understanding of the food heritage resource of the locality. This process is at the base of the co-creation of food heritage-based tourism experiences. This study concludes that tourism is a social and cultural force that can shape new relations between people and place and that food can offer a pathway to create new heritage-based networks in a locality.
Advisor: Lovelock, Brent; Carr, Anna
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Tourism
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Italy; food heritage; food tourism; food heritagisation; heritage-making; cheese; cheesescape; Ethnography; Actor Network Theory; community development; gastronomy; tourism experiences
Research Type: Thesis