Human Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 747–757 | Cite as

Interstitial but Resilient: Nomadic Shepherds in Piedmont (Northwest Italy) Amidst Spatial and Social Marginalization

  • Giulia Mattalia
  • Gabriele VolpatoEmail author
  • Paolo Corvo
  • Andrea Pieroni


Mobility, nomadic pastoralists’ main adaptive strategy, has been compromised by agricultural expansion and rangeland fragmentation, among other factors, in many pastoral contexts. Among nomads’ coping strategies, is re-shaping mobility in shrinking grazing grounds. Through semi-structured interviews, we examine adaptation and resilience to the effects of increasingly intensive land use and marginalization focusing on Alpine nomadic pastoralists in Piedmont, Northwest Italy. Our results show that Alpine nomads access a wide variety of grazing grounds through a web of social relations with multiple stakeholders, acting in the interstices of mainstream society and navigating marginal contexts: geographically, they use fallow, abandoned, and post-harvest plots; economically and socially, they interact with other marginal groups (e.g., migrants) and are stigmatized by diverse sectors of society. This use of interstitial spaces is in itself a form of adaptation that is taking place in diverse geographical contexts as nomads reconfigure their mobility and social relations to access the scattered pieces of land left unused by industrial, agricultural, and conservation land uses.


Nomadic pastoralism Resilience Sheep husbandry Transhumance Europe Piedmont Northwest Italy 



We are very thankful to all the shepherds and their families for their patience and kindness during the interviews. We also thank Marzia Verona and Pinulin Ghibaudo for sharing with us their knowledge about Alpine nomadism and shepherds.

Authors’ Contribution

GM conducted fieldwork and analysed the data, GV drafted the paper, all authors designed the study, composed the literature review, and worked on, read and approved the final manuscript.


Funds for this study came from the MIUR through the PRIN project ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services in Sacred Natural Sites (BIOESSaNS)’, Nr. 2015P8524C, as well as from the University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo, Italy.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Gastronomic SciencesPollenzoItaly

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