Commoning the food system: Barriers, opportunities and resilience strategies on the case of CampiAperti, Bologna, Italy

  • Dagmar Diesner

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The concept of ‘Food sovereignty’ was articulated by the global peasant movement La Via Campesina in 1994, in response to the neo-liberalisation of agriculture. Most academic research on food sovereignty focusses on the global South, and only little attention has been paid to the European peasant movement and their strategies to build food sovereignty in a context in which, according to European La Via Campesina, the EU Common Agricultural Policy is putting a small farm out of business every three minutes, and agro-industry emits one fourth of all carbon emissions in the continent. This thesis discusses the transformative potential of food production and the decommodification of foodstuff from a commons and commoning perspective. Analysing the case of CampiAperti, a producer Association in Bologna, Italy, I demonstrate multiple production systems in use-value through the lens of the peasant condition where farmers have taken ownership over the production stages of their selected craft, and through commoning have put in place an agroecological value system based on animal and labour rights. In exerting their value system, two autopoietic mechanisms were developed to assert their ecological and social boundaries from the state, capitalist system and free-riders. The first one is the participatoryguarantee-system (PGS), and the second is the collaborative price-mechanism (CPM). The PGS is instrumental to self-certifying their foodstuff, which raises the critical question of boundaries and enclosures from a commons perspective. While the CPM is used to eliminate competitive behaviour amongst producers by setting their own ‘just prices’. This mechanism is scrutinised on competition, and on the tension between guaranteeing a livelihood for farmer and the affordability of their foodstuff for consumers. Both PGS and CPM mechanism defy the capitalist logic of neo-liberalisation of the food system as well as the logics of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and thus these mechanisms are strategic political tools to emancipate from the capitalist food market and are employed to self-govern their own markets. Foodstuff is evaluated as a common good, arguing that the created food system is a closed commons circuit.
  Conducting fieldwork on farms, markets, and assemblies, the study addresses the possibility of materialising food sovereignty by examining production and distribution of foodstuff in usevalue. It utilises a practice-centred approach and draws on a mixed-method, multi-sited ethnographic strategy to explore how individuals take responsibility of their re/production and examines the producer’s commitment to participate in self-governing the food system through commoning. The ethnographic study is supplemented with a discourse and conversational analysis to get a deeper understanding of CampiAperti’s organisation and of their complex horizontal governance structure.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorChiara Tornaghi (Supervisor) & Mark Tilzey (Supervisor)


  • commoning
  • use-value
  • solidarity economy
  • social movements
  • food sovereignty

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