Focussing on the links among people, places and traditions, this study aims to present the reflections derived from five in-depth personal interviews on traditions regarding wine, fish, cheese making and rural hospitality, collected in a journey across the province of Reggio Calabria in southern Italy. It provides an original view of the “stories” behind the places and the products, useful to inform local development strategies centred on traditional food products.
The article presents a novel approach in conducting research that involves collecting information via empathetic interviews and presenting the findings in a reflexive, narrative storytelling style.
Empathetic personal interviewing is key to elicit information useful to frame the links among people, places and traditions. The economic motivation is not the main one for people to remain engaged in the production of traditional food products in the province of Reggio Calabria. Pride in linking their activities and the products they make to the territory, its traditions and the culture embedded therein, clearly contribute to define a sense of place that might be further drawn upon in participatory, rural development initiatives.
Due to the way in which the interviewees have been selected, not all findings can be generalized as applicable to the entire Province or beyond.
Recognizing the people and the stories behind a product may offer insights on how to design effective, socially sustainable policies that would preserve important traditions. Personal food narratives might contribute, in a unique way, to an effective branding of the products and the territory.
Doing more empathetically participatory research, rather than taking a “neutral” stance in data collection and data crunching, which has traditionally characterized the work of agricultural economists, may help in making the institutions being perceived as less distant by the ultimate beneficiary of development policies and make participatory planning much more effective.
The article contributes to an emerging area of research at the intersection between agricultural economics and rural development policy. How to highlight and protect the people and their stories as fundamental aspects of the “places”, “products” and “traditions”, remains an area of research that has not yet been fully explored, at least in the rhetoric and discourse on integrated rural development in Italy.
The author is grateful to the guest editor and two anonymous referees for their precious comments that allowed to significantly improve the article. The research on which this paper is based has been supported by GASTROCERT, a Project on Gastronomy and Creative Entrepreneurship in Rural Tourism, funded by JPI Cultural Heritage and Global Change – Heritage Plus, ERA-NET Plus action “Development of new methodologies, technologies and products for the assessment, protection and management of historical and modern artefacts, buildings and sites”, 2015-2018. Thanks to Monica Mollo of the Local Action Group “Terre Locridee” who introduced me to Giuseppe Alagna. The author wish to deeply thank her soulmate, Carlo Cafiero, for having accompanied her in this journey, by operating the video-camera during the interviews and for having helped her in trying to render her writing style in English.
Palladino, M. (2020), "Rediscovering people, places and traditions: a story of stories", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 121-147. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPMD-12-2018-0097
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