The Peasant Activism Project: an ethnographic study

The Peasant Activism Project (2016-2018) is 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. The project investigates innovative political activism related to grassroot attempts to re-appropriate the right to certify food.

The vulnerability of small-scale farmers

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 the emerging diffusion of alternative and more democratic ‘participatory self-certifications’ of food products in Italy through a theoretical lens that combines anthropological writing on food activism with critical studies of policy. This will allow a renewed ‘political understanding’ of food activism, an understanding in relation to broader issues of governance, sovereignty and citizenship, rather than in relation to questions of identity and culture.

"Investigating innovative political activism that attempts to re-appropriate the right to certify food"


CALL FOR PAPERS AND VISUAL PROJECTS: 2nd Political Imagination Laboratory


DEADLINE: Wednesday 30 August 2017

The “Peasant Activism Project” in cooperation with the network “Anthropology and Social Movements” of the European Association of Social Movements (EASA), promotes the second meeting of the POLITICAL IMAGINATION LABORATORY: Visualizing and Investigating the Imagination of Contemporary Activism.

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Event: Belfast Film Festival Documentary Screening

Queen’s Film Theatre, 4pm – Thursday 6th April 2017

Belfast Film Festival – Documentary Screening and Debate Event

We are pleased to announce a screening and debate session of our documentary “An Experimental Path” at the Belfast Film Festival 2017, organized in cooperation with Cooperative Alternatives Northern Ireland and the Centre for Documentary Research (Queen’s University)

Event: Documentary Screening and Debate in Rome

Zazie nel Metro, Pigneto, Rome (Italy), 6,30pm – 19th January  2017

Documentary Screening and Debate Event

An Experimental Path
(documentary, 40’, 2016, Italy)

We will present our first documentary “An Experimental Path” at Zazie nel Metrò, a new neighborhood cooperative in Rome. Activists of Comune del Crocicchio, different cooperatives, and Terra/Terra discuss food sovereignty and participatory guarantee.

Event: Documentary Screening and Debate

Graduate School, room TR6, Queen’s University 5pm – 8th November 2016

Documentary Screening and Debate Event

An Experimental Path
(documentary, 40’, 2016, Italy)

In an experimental journey, a manufacturer of essential oils, a cattle breeder, a beekeeper and a baker demonstrate how “participatory guarantee” can become an alternative model to conceive food production and consumption, able to bring together independent small-scale farmers, producers and consumers in Italy in new forms of exchange and community.

News: First documentary of Peasant Activism Project

An Experimental Path

First documentary of the Peasant Activism Project
(40’, 2016, Italy)

A network of independent small-scale farmers and food producers of Central Italy experiments with the “participatory guarantee”, a set of collective and participatory practices that aims to develop an alternative food quality and safety certification. The documentary displays everyday practices and urban-rural relations that constitute the basis of this alternative certification.

POLITICAL IMAGINATION LABORATORY: Visualizing and Contextualizing Ethnographies of Social Movements

Perugia 14th -16th October 2016 University of Perugia

What visions animate contemporary activism? How to visualize or to contextualize the political imagination of contemporary social movements? How to uncover those utopian aspirations, strategic and/or ideological horizons that too often pass implicitly, silently or invisibly? Inspired by both visual and ethnographic fieldwork, the Political Imagination Laboratory aims to explore and interrogate the shifting political imagination of contemporary social movements and forms of activism.

First impressions from our work

Project hosted by

Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, Queen’s University Belfast


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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This is the official website of the project: ‘The Right to Certify? Mobilizing for the Self-Certification of Food’ (Project code ES/M011291/1)