Publication Date

Winter 11-15-2019


This dissertation explores the revalorization of Italian extra virgin olive oils after a food scare that revealed some oils to be inauthentic or adulterated. In the process of distinguishing products, producers and tasters looked toward terroir or the “taste of place” as proof of their declarations of authenticity and as a method for differentiating oils. However, in this attempt, they engaged with other pervasive tropes of difference including those that intersected with belonging, the local and global, and race. This dissertation argues that terroir is a material-semiotic object; that while it may be grounded in the materiality of oils is chiefly produced through the discursive practices of identification and description. This conception of terroir breaks down categories of authenticity and quality as equally discursively produced, and allows for observing the ways personal taste experiences are connected to broader politics through the (re)production of axes of differentiation across scales and domains.


Italy, Tuscany, terroir, olive oil, sensory anthropology

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Ronda Brulotte

Second Committee Member

Lindsay Smith

Third Committee Member

Erin Debenport

Fourth Committee Member

Michael Di Giovine

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Anthropology Commons