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Interview with Dr. Clelia Viecelli: A Journey from Ethnographic Research to Inspirational Teaching

Dr. Clelia Viecelli, an anthropologist and researcher, joined Umbra in 2021 and now chairs the Food, Sustainability, and Environment program (FSE). We sat down with her to discuss her journey with us and her recent achievement of securing a postdoctoral position in a research team.


A New Chapter at Umbra Institute
Clelia’s journey at Umbra began in September 2021, just after earning her Ph.D. from the University of Southampton: “It’s already been more than two years, time flies!” she exclaimed. Since her arrival at the Institute, she has taught courses like Anthropology of Food and History and Culture of Food in Italy.

Teaching Philosophy: Anthropology at Its Core
“Being an anthropologist is inevitably at the core of my teaching method,” she stated, emphasizing the importance of cultural exchange in her classes. When discussing teaching, Clelia acknowledges the guidance of Umbra’s Director Zach in pedagogical methods. She finds teaching to be one of the most rewarding aspects of her job. In her classrooms, she aims to create a nurturing and inclusive environment that fosters critical thinking. As a cultural mediator, she relishes discussing culinary differences and introducing Italian food culture to her diverse student body.

Pioneering Research on Female Winegrowers
Clelia’s research concentrates on female natural winegrowers in Italy, especially in Piedmont and Sicily: “I was interested in understanding what it means to produce wines without relying on chemical substances in the vineyard and the cellar,” she explained. “Additionally, while being a minority in this male-dominated field, women are leading figures in the Italian natural wine world. I wanted to explore this unique perspective.” Her ethnographic work includes recent fieldwork with female chefs in Umbria, further enriching her study of gender roles in the Italian food industry. It’s noteworthy that this research was presented last summer at the ASFS/AFHVS 2023 Conference.

Exciting New Research Project
“The great news is that I’ve recently joined a multi-disciplinary research team based at the University of Siena and Trento, focusing on the socio-cultural construction of taste,” Dr. Viecelli shared. This project seeks to understand how taste, as a subjective experience, evolves into a field of shared practices and evaluations: “This project’s novelty lies in its focus on wine and coffee as products subject to taste evaluations. It’s the first comprehensive study of taste as a concrete practice that shapes judgments and quality assessments” she added enthusiastically.

Looking Ahead
“We are particularly keen on unraveling questions related to the current sophistication of taste and the increasing standardization of taste language in our society”, concluded Dr Viecelli, opening up insightful perspectives concerning this research project.

Stay tuned for updates on the outcomes of this groundbreaking project!

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