Dr Robin Smith

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow

Copenhagen Business School

Welcome to my site!

I am an anthropologist of Europe and write about the values, relationships, and practices of rural family wineries and olive oil producers in Istria, Croatia.

This site introduces you to Istria and my work, including my publications, ongoing projects, and the research and writing resources I have found helpful.

An anthropologist of Europe trained at the University of Oxford, I do research in Istria, Croatia with farmers and rural business owners to learn about their lives as they adapt to the European Union. I am interested in the issues that shape their daily business and personal lives, and how farmers in particular come to understand their role in developing and managing their local market and politics. Presently, my main point of focus is their values, particularly around capitalism, and how those play out in everyday business and social life, and especially how those values are challenged by capitalist market realities.

My research has been supported by the EU's Marie Curie (Horizon 2020), Wenner-Gren Foundation, Independent Social Research Foundation, Clarendon Fund of Oxford Univ. Press, and American Council of Learned Societies.

For the past few years, I have been developing my theoretical approach to complex business relationships in Croatia's agrarian economy for my ongoing monograph and a series of journal articles and book chapters in edited volumes I have coordinated. It has also led me to develop a new research project comparing European olive oil communities and how EU investments in the sector are impacting local politics, community relationships, health, ecology, and of course, markets.

I began my Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship in February 2022 at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. My research project is on the tax and other financial practices of Croatian businesses and their impact on the development of rural economies. It is a multi-year project based at the Department of Organization and my mentor is Karen Boll.

I am also an academic guest at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, where I began in 2021 as a Wenner-Gren Hunt Fellow working on mybook project entitled, The Art of Getting By in Istrian Winemaking, which is being revised.

I have published on local resistance to tax reforms, the importance of favors in farming life, an introduction to the anthropology of tax, urban gardening, and solidarity networks in farming. I also researched alternative food procurement and distribution networks in urban Europe on an ERC project and the informal economy around the rose oil sector in Bulgaria. In all my work, I am concerned with how political economic systems are experienced by farmers in different ways. Because of this, I have grown interested in issues surrounding agricultural finance.

I have collaborated to co-create a special issue onthe anthropology of tax in Social Analysis with Nicolette Makovicky as co-editor. This was an output of our panel at the UK's ASA in 2018 entitled "The sociality of tax: State-citizen imaginaries". It was a magical panel event that drew in a large handful of scholars focusing on tax. So much so that I built us the website, The Anthropology of Tax Network, so that we can promote our work and find new synergies for collaboration. It has resources like an ongoing bibliography that I maintain, and links to researchers and projects.This has recently grown into an EASA Anthropology of Tax Network, widening our visibility and promoting this sub-field.

Yet another outgrowth of this is a volume due out in late 2023 with Johanna Mugler and Miranda Sheild Johansson, my co-editors, entitled: Anthropology and Tax: Ethnographies of Fiscal Relations, under contract with Cambridge University Press. We have 15 contributors who bring in a whole new range of topics into the anthropology of tax.

About Istria

Istria is a fascinating region to study. I feel so lucky to have stumbled upon this place. Its history is complicated, being a region fought over by various empires throughout the centuries. This has led to local jokes like, "My grandfather was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, my father in Italy, myself in Yugoslavia, and my son in Croatia -- and all of us in the same place!" Indeed, families have military paraphernalia from family members who served in the French, Austro-Hungarian, Italian, or Yugoslav armies in their boxes of heirlooms. Almost everyone speaks multiple languages -- Italian, Croatian, German, and local Istrian dialects rooted in Italian but that Italian tourists find baffling. The food one finds at popular agrotourisms reflects this diverse heritage.

The natural richness of this region cannot be overstated. Every season is marked by some culinary delight or another. Istrian wines are earning Decanter wine awards, and Istrian olive oils are among the most highly ranked in the world by industry rankings. Many family agrotourisms and rural or farmstead restaurants make pastas and breads from home-grown wheat they mill at one of the local mills. Forests are bountiful with mushrooms, truffles, wild asparagus, and salad greens. Be careful before venturing out on your own here though -- one needs licenses and local knowledge to avoid animals like wild boar!

When I was a graduate student at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, at University College, London, my mentor took me out for beer and asked me what my non-academic interests were. I said I wanted to be a sommelier, and she exclaimed that "You know, Croatia has some fabulous wines, and they're seriously under studied!"

I hope that my research has gone some way to rectify this!

I hope you enjoy the pages on this site, not just to get to know me, but to find resources to explore for yourself.

Other web presence

In case you want to see my web presence on other platforms, here are the various buttons to them:

Faculty Profile
Faculty Profile
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Faculty Profile

If you are interested in learning more about the anthropology of tax, check out the page I built and maintain called The Anthropology of Tax Network, at: