Dr Robin Smith

Wenner-Gren Hunt Fellow


Welcome to my site

An anthropologist of post-socialist Europe, I do research in Istria, Croatia with farmers and rural business owners to learn about their lives as they adapt to the European economy. I am interested in the types of economic issues that shape their daily business and personal lives, and how farmers in particular come to understand their role in shaping their local market.

I am currently a Wenner-Gren Hunt Fellow and a visiting scholar at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, where I am working on my book project entitled, The Art of Getting By in Istrian Winemaking. 

Last year, I was a Political Economy Fellow of the Independent Social Research Foundation based at the University of Oxford. During this time, I developed my theoretical approach to complex business networks in Croatia's agrarian economy in order to draft my ongoing ethnography. I also published articles on local resistance to tax reforms, an introduction to the anthropology of tax, urban gardening, and solidarity networks in farming. Before this, I was a post-doctoral researcher at Leiden University, the Netherlands, on a project about alternative food procurement and distribution networks in urban Europe. In all my work, I am concerned with how economic systems are experienced by farmers in different ways.

Because of this, I am particularly interested in issues surrounding taxation. I have collaborated to co-edit a special issue on the anthropology of tax in Social Analysis, and have multiple other projects in progress, including a research project and a co-edited book volume on the subject.

In 2022, I will begin a multi-year Marie Curie Fellowship at Copenhagen Business School at the Department of Organization to investigate tax practices using interdisciplinary methodologies.

See the other site I created, The Anthropology of Tax Network, to find more anthropologists researching taxation's role in society and resources like bibliographies and institutional links.

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:

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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: