“Contingency-Based Expertise” in the Case of Olive Quick Decline Syndrome in Apulia

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:30
Oral Presentation
Christian COLELLA, Università Milano-Bicocca, Italy
Roberto CARRADORE, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy
Beginning in 2013, the Apulia region (Italy) experienced the first signs of Olive Quick Decline Syndrome (OQDS). Since then, a scientific dispute about pathologization and medicalization of this plant pathology has taken place, involving regional laboratories which have expressed divergent positions regarding the causal role of Xylella Fastidiosa subsp. pauca, a plant pathogen that requires urgent eradication and containment measures in the EPPO region. The EU-manded requirement to cut down thousands of centuries-old and culturally important trees, as the only possible containment measure (according to EFSA risk evaluations and EU precautionary principles), has encountered significant opposition among environmental groups and social movements advocating an expansion of research efforts (the so-called “360° approach”) in order to find less drastic solutions. In this paper, we analyze this phenomenon in a three-dimensional space (cultural, political and epistemological) in order to develop a complex perspective toward public engagement and activism for citizen science. We focus our attention on the social dynamics that have brought civic activism and social movements to a new form of “lay-expertise”. Our aim is to outline a new category of expertise generated by specific socio-cultural variables, highlighting its contingent nature, especially the way it stimulates the processes of knowledge production, scientific communication, and policy making structure. Moving towards a theoretical and methodological integration of Studies of Expertise and Experience (SEE) and Social Movement Studies (SMS), we suggest to enrich the theoretical framework with the new interstitial category of “Contingency-Based Expertise”.