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  • Julio Sa Rego

Mountain Pastoralism, Mobility and Environment in Mediterranean Europe

Dernière mise à jour : 18 janv.

Call for papers for a Special Issue of Nomadic Peoples

Guest Editors: Julio Sa Rego (CRIA-ISCTE, Portugal) and Athanasios Ragkos (Agricultural Economics Research Institute - ELGO DIMITRA, Greece)

Articles due date: June 30, 2023

This special issue on mountain pastoralism, mobility and environment in Mediterranean Europe of Nomadic Peoples seeks to re-establish the bridges between Southern Europe mountain pastoralisms in a context of shared social, economic, political, and environmental challenges. Despite a diverse organizational and cultural matrix – from the foundational values of honour and shame of the Eastern Mediterranean societies (Peristiany 1974) to the Celtic and Germanic communitarianism inheritance of the Iberian Peninsula (Dias 1961) – pastoralism in Southern Europe represents an important local livelihood system that shares convergent trajectories.

Historically, pastoralism arose to valorise marginal mountain areas, all over the region, and ensure food security through the rearing of small ruminants under different patterns of movement and land tenure (Pyne 2001). Crop farming on the mountains of the Mediterranean Europe was challenging but the landscape was rich of sprouts and shrublands. Pastoralism eventually turned these mountains into unique, sustainable habitats weaved by the movement of sheep and goats under the guidance of pastoralist dwellers (Ingold 2000). Pastoralism evolved into symbiotic communities of humans, animals and landscape knit together in a context of extended sociality (Ingold 2013).

However, the perceptions of functions and operations of pastoralism tended to diversify. Although pastoralism has been a respected profession in several parts of Europe, pastoral communities became socially subordinated on some occasions, mainly due to negative perceptions of settled societies regarding mobile lifestyle in marginal lands (Scott 2017). In such cases, mountain pastoralists of Southern Europe mostly occupied subaltern social positions that justified land grab policies (Borras Jr and Franco 2012) to insert pasturelands in competitive markets from the eighteenth century (Sa Rego, Cabo, and Castro 2022). The domination of the dissocialised market economy was flooding over the rural world (Polanyi 2001) to progressively substitute traditional lifeworld (Shanin 1988) by high modernism schemes (Scott 1998).

In the crossroads of these trajectories, pastoralism has eventually survived in all parts of Southern Europe. Circular and pendular movements of humans with their sheep and goats still go on in the mountains of Mediterranean Europe and pastoral systems with various gradients of dependence on land are still operating and evolving (Bindi 2022). The activity is nevertheless in frank decline, threatened to extinction by depopulation, rural commodification, mass production, international competition or climate change (M. Nori and Farinella 2020).

Paradoxically, the climate threat has also promoted new political and economic opportunities to pastoralism with the recent recognition of grazing as a provider of ecosystem services (Foster et al. 2020; Pulungan et al. 2019). Pastoralism is politically valued for the environmental management of European mountains (S. Nori and Gemini 2011) and confers to mobility competitive advantages for economic resilience (Ragkos et al. 2016) and a leverage for rights claims for political empowerment (Pulido 1996).

Thus, mountain pastoralism in the Mediterranean Europe carries now an environmental societal responsibility, in a context of both globalised and localised threats, after a history of social and economic subordination. How did these transformations affect the historic social image of pastoralism in urban and in rural settings? What are the strategies of the traditional pastoral systems to cope with depopulation, ageing and land abandonment affecting mountain areas? What would be the place for the new peasantries or immigrant workers and its consequences in terms of landscape management by non-dweller pastoralists? What did become the relationships with animals and nature in traditional pastoral settings with their progressive mediation by the capital? How is mobility being used as a market specialization strategy for economic resilience? How are pastoral farmers ensuring their livelihoods in localized short value chains facing competition by globalized ones? How are pastoralist communities promoting their positive environmental externalities for political recognition and empowerment?

This special issue of Nomadic Peoples expects then to stimulate cutting-edge research from Mediterranean Europe settings to address these reflections, in a context of environmental threats and climate emergency, with mobility as an approach angle. Contributions from an evidence base constructed on case studies in mountains of Southern Europe that cover the themes presented below will be particularly appreciated.

Mountain pastoralism, mobility & environment as socially seen in urban and rural settings

Historical interchanges between positive and negative social images of mountain pastoralism in Southern Europe have been witnessed according to the socioeconomic context in different settings. Actually, the policy framework for pastoralism is not enabling for the sector, as it does not discern it from other livestock systems and does not fully recognize its particularities. Nevertheless, the evidence base on the environmental benefits of grazing in mountain areas (including the provision of ecosystem services and its relation to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals) grows and promotes recognition of pastoralism. Does this new environmental recognition have an impact at the political level and how does this resonate at society level? What are the trickling down channels to the urban and rural settings? How does it alter the social image of pastoralism in cities and in villages? Does it ultimately influence the self-perception and the identity of pastoralists?

Mountain pastoralism, mobility & environment exposed to socio-demographic transformations in mountain areas

Mountains of the Southern Europe have been exposed to critical demographic transformations during the twentieth century. First, rural exodus and international emigration have progressively emptied villages of devaluated peasant economies; then, movements of return to nature have been replenishing a number of villages with urbans in escape of perceived devaluated city life. These demographic movements impact villages in terms of age pyramid, workforce, or class and eventually change the social structure in mountain rural areas. How are these socio-demographic transformations altering the relation to nature in mountain villages? What is the consequence for pastoralism and the management of landscape? The reflection may for instance approach

  • changes in land tenure structure and the access to pasturelands,

  • the substitution of local shepherds by migrant workers and the management of landscape by non-dweller pastoralists,

  • the abandonment of agriculture and the consequence in historical integrated crop-livestock systems,

  • repeasantized pastoralists and their visions of nature,

  • the penetration of urban habitus in traditional pastoral cultures and new approaches to animal mobility,

  • the neo-rural populations’ perception of rurality and confrontations with day-to-day animal husbandry practices.

Mountain pastoralism, mobility & environment mediated by the capital

The dissemination of capitalism in the mountains of Southern Europe promoted the progressive integration of pastoral economies into globalised competitive markets. Mountain pastoralists were submitted to deeper money economy that eventually mediated their experience of nature. How has this mediation by the capital transformed their relations to land and animals? What are the consequences in terms of traditional landscape custodianship perceptions and practices? The reflection may for instance approach

  • the confrontation of pastoralists to market relations and the adjustments of their visions of nature,

  • the progression of capital in livestock rearing and the disconnection with nature,

  • the domination of the dissocialised market economy and its environmental impacts in rangelands.

Mountain pastoralism, mobility & environment as a strategy for economic resilience

The political valorisation of pastoralism for the environmental management in some European mountains (e.g., in Spain and France) has provided pastoralists with new economic opportunities. It incites the emergence of growing sustainable consumption lifestyle markets for pastoral products that permit the establishment of effective short value chains and labels based on the promotion of pastoral mobility. How are mountain pastoralists responding to these new market demands in Southern Europe? To what extent the environmental label is translated into economic resilience strategy by pastoralists? The reflection may for instance approach

  • the perception of the environmental competitive advantage of pastoralism and the modulation of pastoral marketing practices,

  • the political environmental recognition of pastoralism and the development of (innovative) production strategies based on mobility,

  • the resilience of environmentally differentiated short value chains and the globalised livestock economy,

  • the pastoralism environmental label and the economic justice opportunity.

Mountain pastoralism, mobility & environment as a leverage for political empowerment

The global environmental concern promotes political opportunities to pastoralist communities of Southern Europe mountains. Mobile grazing is now a recognised provider of ecosystem services. The action of cattle, sheep and goats in the landscape can be politically valorised – based on exchanges with institutional and scientific actors and the valorisation of basic and applied research - contrasting with its sometimes-controversial image in the region. This creates new possibilities for right claims for communities historically affected by environmental injustice. How are these pastoralist communities valuing the positive environmental externalities of pastoralism? What are the political strategies developed for community empowerment? The reflection may for instance approach

  • the local valorisation of the environmental function of pastoralism and directed strategies of communication towards urban centres,

  • the assessment of the environmental externality of mobility and calls for payments of related ecosystem services,

  • the climate threat and claims for environmental justice.

Potential contributors are expected to submit original articles in English, no longer than 8,000 words in length, including references, via the Nomadic Peoples online submission system. Author Guidelines for submission are available at Nomadic Peoples website. Please do not forget to select this special issue when submitting.

For more information, do not hesitate to contact Julio Sa Rego ( and Athanasios Ragkos (

Nomadic Peoples is an international journal published by the White Horse Press for the Commission on Nomadic Peoples, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences.


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Borras Jr, Saturnino M., and Jennifer C. Franco. 2012. ‘Global Land Grabbing and Trajectories of Agrarian Change: A Preliminary Analysis’. Journal of Agrarian Change 12 (1): 34–59.

Dias, Jorge. 1961. Portuguese Contribution to Cultural Anthropology. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.

Foster, Claire N., Sam C. Banks, Geoffrey J. Cary, Christopher N. Johnson, David B. Lindenmayer, and Leonie E. Valentine. 2020. ‘Animals as Agents in Fire Regimes’. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 35 (4): 346–56.

Ingold, Tim. 2000. The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. London and New York: Routledge.

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Nori, Michele, and Domenica Farinella. 2020. Migration, Agriculture and Rural Development: IMISCOE Short Reader. Springer.

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Pulungan, Muhammad Almaududi, Shota Suzuki, Maica Krizna Areja Gavina, Jerrold M. Tubay, Hiromu Ito, Momoka Nii, Genki Ichinose, et al. 2019. ‘Grazing Enhances Species Diversity in Grassland Communities’. Scientific Reports 9 (1): 11201.

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Ragkos, Athanasios, Stavriani Koutsou, and Theodoros Manousidis. 2016. ‘In search of strategies to face the economic crisis: Evidence from Greek farms’. South European Society and Politics, 21(3): 319-337.

Sa Rego, Julio, Paula Cabo, and Marina Castro. 2022. ‘Pastoralism, Multifunctionality, and Environmental Agency: Insights from Mountain Sheep Pastoralists in Northern Portugal’. Journal of Agrarian Change, 22(4): 766-786.

Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Yale Agrarian Studies. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press.

Scott, James C. 2017. Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Shanin, Teodor. 1988. ‘Introduction’. In Peasants and Peasant Societies: Selected Readings, edited by Teodor Shanin, 2nd ed., 1–11. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

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