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The Heritage Arena: Reinventing Cheese in the Italian Alps

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Volume 5

Food, Nutrition, and Culture

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The Heritage Arena

Reinventing Cheese in the Italian Alps

Cristina Grasseni

202 pages, 13 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-294-4 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (October 2016)

eISBN 978-1-78533-295-1 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“Grasseni’s book is a real tour de force that highlights the ways in which meaning is created and sometimes reinvented, and how stories are told both to outsiders and to the storytellers themselves in order to realize the economic and political value in a heritage product.” • Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI)

“For the interested reader, there is a wealth of information in The Heritage Arena. The book, and especially sections of it, would work well in graduate seminars on food, food politics, and heritage. It will appeal to scholars who work on the anthropology of food, especially those who do research in Europe and Italy, as well as those who look at cheese production. Scholars of heritage will also find its treatment of heritage as discursively produced and articulated within complex value-production structures important.” • Anthropos

“Grasseni writes with a confident hand, deftly analyzing the interplay of the richly varied political forces at work in a small Alpine region of Italy of which she has deep knowledge as a “native” critically distanced by long years abroad and by her calling as an anthropologist.”
 • Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University

“The book is meticulously researched with great detail on the production, naming, localization, politics, and marketing of cheese in the Bergamo area of the Lombardy region of Italy.” • Carole Counihan, Millersville University

“This book is a thoroughly engaging, in-depth look at the struggles between diverse cheesemakers. It demonstrates that a simple cheese is actually the product of complex performances and power relations, as it is constantly being re-invented and re-presented in relation to other actors’ positions.” • Michael A. Di Giovine, West Chester University of Pennsylvania


In Europe a number of production and communication strategies have long tried to establish local products as resources for local development. At the foot of the Alps, this scenario appears in all its contradictions, especially in relation to cheese production. The Heritage Arena focuses on the saga of Strachitunt, a cheese that has been designated an EU Protected Designation of Origin after years of negotiation and competition involving cheese-makers, merchants, and Slow Food activists. The book explores how the reinvention of cheese as a form of heritage is an ongoing and dynamic process rife with conflict and drama.

Cristina Grasseni is a Professor of Anthropology at Leiden University (the Netherlands).

Subject: Anthropology (General) Food & Nutrition
Area: Southern Europe


List of Tables, Figures and Maps


  • Why cheese?
  • Calibrating cheese
  • Post transhumant timescapes


Chapter 1. Patrimonio and Tipicità

  • The Entrepreneur as Sovereign
  • The Language of Tipicità

Chapter 2. Cultures of Resistance

  • The ‘Mother of all Battles’: Slow Food Bitto versus PDO Bitto
  • The Niche PDO: Formai de Mut
  • The Unachieved PDO: Branzi

Conclusion of Part I


Chapter 3. A geography of Opposites

  • Straddling uplands and lowlands
  • How Taleggio cheese failed the Taleggio valley

Chapter 4. The Best Cheese in Italy

  • PDO Italian Style?
  • The public trial of Strachitunt

Conclusion of Part II


Chapter 5. Marketing the Sensorium

  • Slow Food and the Geometry of Val Taleggio
  • Taliban and Improvers

Chapter 6.  Reinventing Stracchino

  • Deciphering a Meal
  • Performing Cheese

Conclusion of Part III



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