Michael Dietler is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He holds a PhD from the University of California – Berkeley (1990) and taught at Yale University from 1990-1995, before moving to Chicago. He conducts archaeological, ethnographic and historical research, and his interests centre on ancient and modern colonialism, material culture theory, food and alcohol studies, and the use of the past in the construction of modern identities. His research has been conducted in both Europe (especially France, for over 30 years) and Africa. His books include Consumption and Colonial Encounters in the Rhône Basin of France: A Study of Early Iron Age Political Economy (CNRS Editions, 2005) and Archaeologies of Colonialism: Consumption, Entanglement, and Violence in Ancient Mediterranean France (University of California Press, 2010; winner of the J.R. Wiseman Book Award, Archeological Institute of America).
My project consists of the final research and writing of a book entitled Celts – Ancient, Modern, Postmodern: Identity, Globalization, and the Consumption of the Past. The work will examine the multiple ways in which often radically different forms of “Celtic” identity have been constructed in recent historical contexts, from the 18th century to the present, and the ways that the invocation of ancient peoples, objects, and archaeological sites of Iron Age Europe has been a recurrent feature of this process. The book will begin with a discussion of the origin and meanings of the term “Celt” and of archaeological research on “ancient Celts” – the peoples of Iron Age Europe who form the symbolic source and touchstone of authenticity for more recent constructions of Celticism, Celtitude, and Celticity. It will then proceed to an examination of various forms of Celticism that have emerged in competing nationalist, regionalist, and imperialist projects in Europe, and then turn to the spiritualist forms and diaspora types, exploring their political contexts and connections. It will also examine the signs, practices, sites, and media through which Celtic identities are performed. The book seeks to not only dissect various forms of Celtic identity, and the interconnections and contrasts among them, but to explore the resulting contradictions, tensions, and dangers. It seeks also to expose the ways the past is consumed in these competing discursive fields, and to examine the roles and responsibilities of archaeologists in this process. The book will also attempt to explain why Celts, in particular, have attracted such widespread attention, how the attachment to Celts has varied historically in different contexts, and how the forces of globalization and neo-romanticism have shaped the current situation.