I am an archaeologist by training, working as an interdisciplinary researcher and professor of museology. In my research I study constructions and uses of the ancient past for contemporary purposes – in museums, tourism, and the popular media.
In my current research I investigate uses of DNA to construct historic identity. I am particularly interested in the effects of a growing interest in genetic methodology to establish human identity – in studies of prehistoric aDNA as well as in businesses of genetic ancestry testing – on our images of ancient people and our own relations to them. In the years 2018–2022 I was PI of the interdisciplinary research project Code–Narrative–History, which resulted in two books: Critical Perspectives on Ancient DNA (MIT Press, forthcoming spring 2024) and The Trouble with Ancient DNA (The University of Chicago Press, forthcoming autumn 2024), a special issue in Journal of Social Archaeology, and the articles Archaeogenetics in Popular Media; I am a Viking! and Petrous Fever (Current Anthropology, forthcoming 2024), among others. All publications from the Code Narrive History project are found here.
As a student of archaeology in the 1990s I began working in Southeast Asia, and my doctoral thesis (Uppsala University, 2004) was based on archaeological excavations in Laos. Working in Laos, I got interested in the uses and valuations of archaeological heritage in contemporary society. Ever since, my research and teaching has been focused on critical heritage studies, investigating how things, places and traditions of the past are valued and used in contemporary society. Influenced by postcolonial theory, I have taken special interest in relations between heritage and hegemonic power, and in lingering social and political structures from the 19th and early 20th century in contemporary heritage practices.
I have explored these questions in three major research projects after my doctoral thesis. One was funded by Sida/SAREC and investigated the relationships between archaeology, French colonialism and ecotourism in northern Laos. It resulted in the book Stones Standing (2015). The second project was in collaboration with Johan Hegardt and funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond. It was a microhistorical study of international archaeology through the 20th century, where we followed the Swedish-born archaeologist Olov R. T. Janse from Norrköping to Washington, DC, via Uppsala, Paris, Hanoi, Manila, and Harvard University. The results of this project were published in the book The Archaeologist In-Between(2021). The third project: Code–Narrative–History was funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (2018–2022).
I worked with research and teaching at Stockholm University from 2006 to 2022, and joined the museology section at Umeå University in 2023. I have been Honorary Visiting Fellow at University College London since 2009, and have lectured at museums and universities in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, the UK, and the USA. I have worked at museums in Laos, Norway and Sweden (the Swedish History Museum and the National Museums of World Culture), have been Secretary of the Swedish Archaeological Society, editor of the journal Current Swedish Archaeology, and am a member of the editorial board for Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites.
Källén, Anna. The Trouble with Ancient DNA: Telling Stories of the Past with Genetic Science (The University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2024).
Strand, Daniel; Anna Källén & Charlotte Mulcare (Eds). Critical Perspectives on Ancient DNA (MIT Press, forthcoming 2024)
Källén, Anna; Charlotte Mulcare; Andreas Nyblom & Daniel Strand, ’Petrous Fever: The Gap Between Ideal and Actual Practice in Ancient DNA Research’. Forthcoming in Current Anthroplogy.
Källén, Anna; Charlotte Mulcare, Andreas Nyblom & Daniel Strand 2021. ’Introduction: Transcending the aDNA Revolution’. Journal of Social Archaeology, Special Issue on Ancient DNA.
Strand, Daniel & Anna Källén 2021. 'I am a Viking! DNA, popular culture and the construction of geneticized identity'. New Genetics and Society.
Källén, Anna 2021. 'Kulturarv och gränser'. Yearbook of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities 2021, Ed: Ulrika Gustafsson, Stockholm: Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, pp. 77–88.
Björkman, John; Victoria Fareld & Anna Källén 2020. 'Kärlekens kulturhistoria – en introduktion'. Eros, philia, agape – kärlekens kulturhistoria. En vänbok till Inga Sanner, ss 9–22. Lund: Ellerströms förlag.
Källén, Anna; Charlotte Mulcare, Andreas Nyblom & Daniel Strand 2019. 'Archaeogenetics in Popular Media: Contemporary Implications of Ancient DNA'. Current Swedish Archaeology, vol 27, pp 69–91.
Källén, Anna (red.) 2019. Heritage and Borders. KVHAA Konferenser 100. Stockholm: Vitterhetsakademien.
Källén, Anna 2019. 'Heritage and Borders: An Introduction'. Heritage and Borders, Ed: Anna Källén. KVHAA Konferenser 100. Stockholm: Vitterhetsakademien, pp 7–12.
Källén, Anna & Johan Hegardt 2019. 'Arkeologen och avståndet'. Tidens landskap: en vänbok till Anders Andrén. Eds: Cecilia Ljung et al. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, pp 276–278.
Källén, Anna (ed.) Making Cultural History. Essays from the Research School of Studies in Cultural History. Lund: Nordic Academic Press.
Källén, Anna. 'Laos, Cultural Heritage Management in'. Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology. Springer Press.
Källén, Anna. 'A Plea for Critique – Comments on Bjørnar Olsen, "After Interpretation: Remembering Archaeology"'. Current Swedish Archaeology, vol 20, 2012, pp 61-66.
Källén, Anna. 'Hintang and the Dilemma of Benevolence'. Appropriating the Past: Philosophical Perspectives on the Practice of Archaeology II. Eds: Geoffrey Scarre & Robin Coningham. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp 119-138.
Hegardt, Johan & Källén, Anna. 'Being through the past. Reflections on Swedish archaeology and heritage management'. In: Ludomir Lozny (Ed.). Comparative Archaeologies: A Sociological View of the Science of the Past. Springer Press. Pp 109–135.
Jakobsson, Mikael & Källén, Anna. 'A Hobbling Marriage: on the relationship between the collections and the societal mission of the Historical Museum'. Current Swedish Archaeology, Vol 17, 2009, pp 151–164.