The Peasant Activism Project: an ethnographic study

The Peasant Activism Project (2016-2018) has been initially a major ethnographic study of neo-rural activism in Italy financed by the Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC), UK, hosted by Queen’s University Belfast and carried out in cooperation with University of Perugia, Italy. Currently the “Peasant Activism Project” continues to function as an international research network, organizing events, documentary screenings and conferences, such as the “Political Imagination Laboratory”. Its overall aim is to bring toegther scholars who investigate innovative political activism related to grassroot attempts to re-appropriate the rights, including those related to food sovereignity.

The governance of transparency and neo-rural activism

Small-scale farmers and neo-rural activists are particularly vulnerable in front of an increasingly invasive neoliberal ‘governance of transparency’. Many of those who pursue sustainable lifestyles and produce quality food often find themselves in difficulties with tightening regulations regarding food safety and the technocratic demands in relation to the certification of standards, considered by many as favoring large industrial productions.

Towards innovations

The core innovation of our study derives from the attempt to shed light on how food sovereignty activism in Italy reappriates the “right to certify” food quality and safety. This will allow a renewed ‘political understanding’ of food activism, renewing the anthropology of food in terms of sovereignty and citizenship, rather than in relation to questions of identity and culture.

"Investigating the opaque side of transparency"



What Can and Can’t Be Said: Fieldwork as Witnessing?

06-07 December 2019, University of Perugia, Italy

We are pleased to announce the second edition of our “Political Imagination Laboratory”. The second edition of the Political Imagination Laboratory brings together anthropologists, social scientists, filmmakers and activists from around the world and will alternate paper presentations with film screenings, roundtable discussions, and work-in-progress visual expositions.
The completed program can be accessed here.


What Can and Can’t Be Said: Fieldwork as Witnessing?

06-07 December 2019, University of Perugia, Italy


The third Political Imagination Laboratory invites those who carry out fieldwork related to questions of social justice and/or activism (anthropologists, filmmakers, social scientists) to focus on methodological and ontological aspects of their research: What can be understood? What not? What can be said? What not? When should we intervene? In how far do we have an obligation to our interlocutors and other actors in as well as outside the field? How do we situate ourselves with regard to moral positions (between cultural relativism and universalism)? How does the relation with our field partners and possible resulting emotional entanglements (e.g., the negotiation of empathy vs. sympathy) influence our way of representing them and of acting in the field?

Please find the complete CALL here.

More information about past editions can be found here.

First impressions from our work

Initially hosted by

School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics (HAPP) , Queen’s University Belfast

Initially financed by
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), UK

In collaboration with
Dipartimento di Filosofia, Scienze Sociali, Umane e della Formazione, Università degli Studi di Perugia

International research network “Anthropology and Social Movements”, European Association of Social Anthropology (EASA)

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The “Peasant Activism Project” is an international research network, organizing events, conferences and documentary screenings. The network derives out of a research project financed between February 2016 and March 2018 by the Economic and Social Science Research Council (Esrc) under the initial title ‘The Right to Certify? Mobilizing for the Self-Certification of Food’ (Project code ES/M011291/1), and has recieved a follow-up research grants in 2018 and network grants in 2019.