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Alcohol, Food, and Feasting: Embodied Material Culture


Research on the ancient wine trade in the Mediterranean, ethnographic work in Africa, and the experience of working in the wine industry while a graduate student in Berkeley all pushed me toward a growing realization of the cultural and social significance of alcohol and food. This early interest led to a more systematic comparative historical and ethnographic exploration of the role of what I have called "embodied material culture" (that is, material substances made to be destroyed by ingestion into the human body: see Dietler 2005) and feasting and "commensal politics" (see Dietler 1996) in social life. This research has led in a variety of directions, including most recently to a course developed with William Green, a neurobiologist at the University of Chicago, exploring the often conflicting perspectives of the social and biological sciences on the issue of drinking alcohol. As a result of this collaboration, we are also working together on a book on this theme.

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2001. Dietler, Michael, and Brian Hayden (editors).  Feasts: Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives on Food, Politics, and Power.  Washington, DC: Smithsonian. 



2020. Dietler, Michael. Alcohol as embodied material culture: anthropological reflections on the deep entanglement of humans and alcohol. In Alcohol and Humans: A Long and Social Affair, edited by Robin Dunbar and Kimberley Hockings, pp. 115-129. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


2018.  Dietler, Michael.  Alkohol als verkörperte materielle Kultur: Vergleichende kulturanthropologische Überlegungen zum Konsum von Alkohol. In Was tranken die frühen Kelten? Bedeutungen und Fonktionen mediterraner Importe im früheisenzeitlichen Mitteleuropa, edited by Philipp Stockhammer and Janine Fries-Knoblach, pp. 299-319.  Leiden: Sidestone Press, BEFIM 1.


2018.  Dietler, Michael. Alcohol as liquid material culture: feasting in comparative perspective. In Animal-Shaped Vessels from the Ancient World: Feasting with Gods, Heroes, and Kings, exhibit catalogue edited by Susanne Ebbinghaus, pp. 25-31. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

2015.  Dietler, Michael.  Rencontres culinaires: Colonialisme et la culture matérielle incarnée. In Contacts et acculturations en Méditerranée occidentale. Hommages à Michel Bats, Actes du colloque de Hyères, 15-18 septembre 2011, edited by Réjane Roure, pp. 153-159. Arles/Aix-en-Provence: Errance/Centre Camille Jullian, , (Bibliothèque d'Archéologie Méditerranéenne et Africaine 15/ Etudes Massaliètes 12).


2011.  Dietler, Michael.  Feasting and fasting.  In Oxford Handbook on the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion, edited by Timothy Insoll, pp. 179-194. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


2010.   Dietler, Michael. Cocina y colonialismo. Encuentros culinarios en la Francia mediterránea protohistórica.  In De la Cuina a la Taula: IV Reunió d’Economia en el Primer Mil..lenni aC., edited by Consuelo Mata Pareño, Guillem Pérez Jordà, and Jaime Vives-Ferrándiz Sánchez, pp. 11-26.  Valencia: Universitat de Valencia, Saguntum.


2007. Dietler, Michael.  Culinary encounters:  food, identity, and colonialism.  In The Archaeology of Food and Identity, edited by Katheryn Twiss, pp. 218-242.  Carbondale: Center for Archaeological Investigations Press, University of Southern Illinois.


2006. Dietler, Michael.  Feasting und kommensale Politik in der Eisenzeit Europas. Theoretische Reflexionen und empirische Fallstudien.  Ethnographisch-Archaeologische Zeitschrift 47(4):541-568.


2006. Dietler, Michael. Wine and colonialism in ancient Gaul.  Cahiers Parisiens 2: 247-279.


2006.  Dietler, Michael.  Alcohol: anthropological/archaeological perspectives.  Annual Review of Anthropology 35: 229-249.


2006.  Dietler, Michael, and Ingrid Herbich.  Liquid material culture: following the flow of beer among the Luo of Kenya.  In Grundlegungen. Beiträge zur europäischen und afrikanischen Archäologie für Manfred K.H. Eggert, edited by Hans-Peter Wotzka, pp. 395-408. Tübingen: Francke Verlag.


2005.  Dietler, Michael.   Introduction: embodied material culture.  Archaeological Review from Cambridge 20(2): 3-5.


2005. Poux, Matthieu, and Michael Dietler.  Du vin, pour quoi faire?  In Le Vin: nectar des dieux, génie des hommes, edited by Jean-Pierre Brun, Matthieu Poux and André Tchernia, pp. 9-26.  Gollion, Switzerland: Infolio.


2003.  Dietler, Michael.  Clearing the table: some concluding reflections on commensal politics and imperial states.  In The Archaeology and Politics of Food and Feasting in Early States and Empires, edited by Tamara Bray, pp. 271-282.  New York: Kluwer Press.


2001.  Dietler, Michael.  Theorizing the feast: rituals of consumption, commensal politics, and power in African contexts.  In Feasts: Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives on Food, Politics, and Power, edited by Michael Dietler and Brian Hayden, pp. 65-114. Washington, DC: Smithsonian.


2001.  Dietler, Michael, and Ingrid Herbich.  Feasts and labor mobilization: dissecting a fundamental economic practice.  In Feasts: Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives on Food, Politics, and Power, edited by Michael Dietler and Brian Hayden, pp. 240-264. Washington, DC: Smithsonian.


2001.  Dietler, Michael, and Brian Hayden.  Digesting the feast -- good to eat, good to drink, good to think: an introduction.  In Feasts: Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives on Food, Politics, and Power, edited by Michael Dietler and Brian Hayden, pp.1-20. Washington, DC: Smithsonian.


1999. Dietler, Michael.   Rituals of commensality and the politics of state formation in the "princely" societies of Early Iron Age Europe.  In Les princes de la Protohistoire et l'émergence de l'état,  edited by Pascal Ruby, pp. 135-152.  Naples: Cahiers du Centre Jean Bérard, Institut Français de Naples 17 - Collection de l'École Française de Rome 252.


1997. Dietler, Michael.  L'art du vin chez les Gaulois.  Pour la Science 237: 68-74.


1996. Dietler, Michael.   Feasts and commensal politics in the political economy:  food, power, and status in prehistoric Europe.  In Food and the Status Quest: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, edited by Polly Wiessner and Wulf Schiefenhövel, pp. 87-125.  Oxford: Berghahn Publishers. 


1994. Dietler, Michael.   Quenching Celtic thirst.  Archaeology 47(3): 44-48. 


1992. Dietler, Michael.   Commerce du vin et contacts culturels en Gaule au Premier Age du Fer.  In Marseille grecque et la Gaule, Études Massaliètes 3, edited by Michel Bats, Guy Bertucchi, Gaëtan Congès & Henri Tréziny, pp. 401-410.  Lattes: A.D.A.M Éditions.


1990. Dietler, Michael.   Driven by drink:  the role of drinking in the political economy and the case of Early Iron Age France.   Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 9: 352-406.


1989. Dietler, Michael.  Greeks, Etruscans and thirsty barbarians:  Early Iron Age interaction in the Rhône basin of France.  In Centre and Periphery: Comparative Studies in Archaeology, edited by Timothy Champion, pp. 127-141.   London: Unwin Hyman.  

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