Current Institutional Affiliation
Senior Archaeologist

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Chicago
Distilling the Irish Spirit: An Intersection of Drink Cultures and Colonialism in the Early Modern World

Ireland, as diagnostic grey area between colony and European state periphery, is a fruitful place to explore the intersection of colonialism and the rise of capitalism, where the commodity in question, whiskey, was not an alien cultivar but a heavily processed indigenous consumable. How and why did ‘whiskey’ become an object and potential tool, through its transformation into a market commodity, of the conquest and incorporation of the peoples and landscapes of Ireland into the civil, economic, and cultural purview of a greater Britain? To answer this requires that we ask how distillates were produced, what physical and social structures allowed for their exchange, and to what ends they were consumed at various points in Ireland’s history- methodologically embedding this commodity within those social networks that constituted a changing world. Tracking these relationships between producer and consumer as they changed over time- as whiskey moved from the realm of pre-conquest Gaelic hospitality into the world of government-sanctioned industrial capital- holds the potential to reveal an interweaving of colonial economy, state interest, and cultural appropriation that goes beyond typical commodity chain analyses. All of this will be addressed through an historical archaeology of Irish whiskey- integrating the documentary and archaeological records to produce a ‘virtual survey’ of the physical and social topography of the production, exchange, and consumption of whiskey in the eastern Ulster counties of Down and Antrim before and subsequent to British colonization. To understand the contemporary meaning behind these networks, this survey will be set in the context of colonialist policy and discourses surrounding Ireland and spirituous liquors in the early modern period (c.1540-1800).