Minor mode - Anthropology on landscape, skinship (genealogy) in Corsica.

Cultivation terrace and a chestnut dryer, near Nucariu village, Castagniccia, Corsica (France), August 22nd, 2014. © Vincent Battesti
© Vincent Battesti

Our research project Castagniccia | Orezza (Corsica) can be divided into three stages:

 #1 The first stage of our research work concerns the evolution of the population of a valley (Orezza) of a singular area of Corsica, Castagniccia. Singular, because it was undoubtedly one of the richest regions of the island and the most densely populated (and today probably at 10% of its numbers in the nineteenth century), whose mode of production contrasted with the pastoral economy classically assimilated to all of Corsica: here, agriculture, and probably we should speak of agroforestry, largely dominated (without excluding pastoralism on the higher vegetation levels of the San Petrone massif). This approach is based on historical demography (with reconstitutions of families and crossed genealogies) from the end of the 18th century to the present day.

 #2 Coupled with this demographic approach, the second stage is a work on the use of the territory by this population, through the land issues of the Castagniccia (end of the 19th century to today).

For these first two stages, the data is a combination of both oral and archival sources. In terms of archives, we use the civil status data present in the town council or, failing that, in the Departmental Archives of Haute-Corse (ADHC). For cadastral data, we also rely on a collaboration with the Departmental Archives of Haute-Corse in Bastia and the staff of the Department of Haute-Corse (now the Cullettività di Corsica/Collectivité de Corse, since the departments have disappeared) and the GIRTEC. The study focuses on the Orezza valley in general and systematically on the commune of Nocario.

 #3 Finally, the third stage of this project focuses on the evolution of the agroecosystem of the Orezza Valley in Castagniccia. This research component focuses on the evolution of the predominantly forested agroecosystem of Castagniccia (potentially since the end of the 18th century, but especially on the shift from a “rural economy” in the 1950s to the present), in connection with demography and land tenure, as well as an ethnoecology of the current situation. The study focuses on the “Small Castagniccia”, that is the heart of this region, the Orezza valley. Based on some historical insights, the data is predominantly ethnographic. Particular attention will obviously be paid to the chestnut tree (Castanea sativa Mill.), locally u castagnu, at the center of all the representations of Castagniccia, but also of its agroecological functioning and practices.

Therefore, this project aims at setting up an ethnobotany of the chestnut tree in its cultural context of the Orezza valley:

  • cultivation techniques,
    * customary law (in particular “tree property”),
  • agrobiodiversity (different varieties are cultivated),
  • role of the forestry sector (despite/thanks to the chestnut decline over half a century),
  • local views on u castagnu among the population.

The data are predominantly ethnographic—and the student Doria Bellache has conducted (in 2020) a field research on this subject (internship of Master 2 of the MNHN)—but studies of genetic diversity are also underway (as it was conducted on the date palm with my geneticist colleague Muriel Gros-Balthazard) on the chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) locally cultivated with the technical platform of “Paleogenomics and Molecular Genetics” P2GM of the MNHN at the Musée de l’Homme (with Doria Bellache, Jose Utge and Paul Verdu).

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