The Geopolitics of Difference: Geographical Indications and Biocultural Otherness in the New Europe


This essay focuses on the intersection between biocultural diversity and markets by examining the application of Geographical Indications (GIs) in East European contexts as methods for protection of local culinary diversity. Designed to protect regional cultural practices and environmental particularities through marketization, GIs operate as trademarks that add value to the commodities produced in geographically bounded regions. Classic examples of GIs include Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, Bordeaux wine from France, or Vidalia onions from the US state of Georgia. Because GIs establish rent monopoly over scarce commodities, they are usually depicted as highly profitable economic devices for injecting capital into remote and economically depressed areas, supporting community livelihood, and bringing marginal skills, knowledge, and even species back to life.