Michael Dietler

Michael Dietler

dates de séjour

01/09/2011 - 30/06/2012




Professeur d'anthropologie


Université de Chicago, États-Unis

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

Celts – Ancient, Modern, Postmodern: Identity, Globalization, and the Consumption of the Past

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 research has been conducted over a number of years in Europe and America and has now reached the stage at which it is ready to be treated in a book-length analysis. 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 concept of “Celts” has been an amazingly versatile force in the politics of identity and collective memory in recent history. It has been invoked on a number of contrasting, and often contradictory, scales of "imagined community," to use Benedict Anderson's term. These include (1) the historical construction of nationalist mythologies of identity within several European states (e.g. France and Ireland), (2) regional resistance to nationalist or imperialist projects (e.g. Brittany against France; Scotland, Ireland, and Wales against England; and Galicia and Asturias against Spain), and (3) an attempt during the 1990s to create a sense of pan-European cultural identity in the context of the evolving European Union based on a purportedly shared Celtic past. There are also several distinctive types of very recent postmodern, transnational, globalizing formations of Celtic identity that differ in significant ways from all of the first three. These include both Celtic spiritualism and diasporic ethno-nostalgia that I distinguish with the labels “Celticity” and “Celtitude,” respectively. These global “identityscapes” are linked in complex ways to new possibilities of mass-mediation and global flows of people and capital while, ironically, often being motivated by romantic reactions against globalization.


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 (e.g. neo-druid and Celtic reenactment groups) and diaspora types (e.g. heritage societies and roots tourism), exploring their political contexts and connections. It will also examine the signs, practices, sites, and media through which Celtic identities are performed (festivals, theme parks, music, the web, etc.). These movements and their instantiating manifestations are especially characterized by a marked hybridity of practices and symbols and the use of cyberspace to structure and commoditize transnational mediascapes of identity.


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.


Eurias LogoCe résident fait partie du programme de mobilité européenne EURIAS


Cette résidence a bénéficié d'une aide de l'État gérée par l'Agence nationale de la recherche dans le cadre des programmes d'Investissements d'avenir au titre du Laboratoire d'excellence RFIEA+.


Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1990, and was in 1990-1995 Assistant Professor and Associate Professor at Yale University. He is editor of “Archaeological Dialogues”, as well as series editor of “Oxford Studies in History of Archaeology” (Oxford University Press) and of “Topics in Contemporary Archaeology” (Cambridge University Press).


His areas of research specialization are European and Mediterranean prehistory and history, African ethnography and history.


His books include Consumption and Colonial Encounters in the Rhône Bassin of France: A Study of Early Iron Age Political Economy (CNRS Editions, 2005) ; Archaeologies of Colonialism: Consumption, Entanglement, and Violence (University of California Press, 2010.