School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Munro Lecture - Professor Michael Dietler: 'Flows, boundaries, and entanglements'

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Recent archaeological literature on the ancient Mediterranean has tended to focus increasingly on themes of 'connectivity' and networks.  Moreover, heavily influenced by trends in postcolonial theory, the study of colonial encounters has also gravitated toward the celebration of various kinds of cultural fusion described alternatively as hybridity, creolization, and métissage. What has often been swept aside in the pursuit of this theoretical fashion, however, is an understanding of the very real significance of perceived boundaries and distinctive regional identities in the daily lives of people who are the subject of this analysis. 

Professor Dietler's lecture addresses this problem by focusing on a series of colonial encounters that occurred in ancient Mediterranean France during the first millennium BCE.  It shows why accentuation of connectivity as a defining process can end up unconsciously reproducing the perspective of a decidedly colonial vision of the Mediterranean. It argues instead for the idea of “entanglement” to frame the study of colonial encounters and for careful attention to local boundaries, practices, and identities as crucial for understanding the alternative experiences and perspectives of those societies of the Mediterranean that did not leave a hegemonic written narrative of the history of these encounters. There were indeed multiple connections and networks that developed between different parts of the Mediterranean during this period (often articulated by merchants), but these did not dissolve local worlds into an increasingly homogeneous Mediterranean.  Rather, local groups used these connections for their own ethnocentric ends, while at the same time becoming entangled in unanticipated economic, social, and political formations.  The logic and consequences of these colonial encounters cannot be understood from a perspective that ignores boundaries and difference or the qualitative content of network interactions.

Free event, everyone welcome.

Professor Dietler's biography

Michael Dietler is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1990, and he taught at Yale University from 1990-95 before moving to Chicago. He has also been a visiting professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and at the Université Paris I (Sorbonne-Panthéon). His primary archaeological research has been in Mediterranean France, focused on colonial encounters in the first millennium BCE between the indigenous inhabitants of the region and alien Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans. He has also undertaken several years of ethnographic research in Kenya, among the Luo people, in collaboration with Ingrid Herbich. Other research projects include the investigation of modern Celtic identities and imaginaries and the anthropology of alcohol and feasting. Among his publications of particular relevance to the lecture are his books Archaeologies of Colonialism: Consumption, Entanglement, and Violence in Ancient Mediterranean France (2010), Consumption and Colonial Encounters in the Rhône Basin of France:  A Study of Early Iron Age Political Economy (2005), and the edited volumes The Emporion in the Ancient Western Mediterranean: Trade and Colonial Encounters from the Archaic to the Hellenistic Period (2018, with E. Gailledrat & R. Plana-Mallart) and Colonial Encounters in Ancient Iberia: Phoenician, Greek, and Indigenous Relations (2009, with C. López-Ruiz).

Apr 04 2019 -

Munro Lecture - Professor Michael Dietler: 'Flows, boundaries, and entanglements'

The Munro Lecture 'Flows, boundaries, and entanglements: Unraveling colonial encounters in Ancient Mediterranean France' by Professor Michael Dietler on 4 April, 2019.

Lecture Theatre 2, Appleton Tower, 11 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9LE