Dr. Gertjan Plets is an associate professor in Heritage Studies. He is currently employed by the Cultural History section of Utrecht University. At Utrecht, he coordinates and conducts research in the field of heritage politics, theoretical archaeology, digital humanities, and Russian cultural politics. He broadly approaches cultural heritage as a cultural expression and political statement. By deconstructing how groups use and abuse the past he contributes to debates about cultural policy and sovereignty. His regional focus is Russia, Flanders, and the Netherlands.
Cultural Politics in Siberia
During his PhD at Ghent University (2013), he conducted anthropological research in the Altai Republic (Siberia, Russia) where he studied how the Putin government uses cultural heritage and archaeology as part of its nation-building portfolio. He explored the struggle of indigenous Siberian groups for cultural sovereignty and their interaction with the cultural policies of the Kremlin. As such, he could trace and reconstruct the political entanglements of archaeology and heritage management in the Russian Federation. He has exhaustively published about this research line and a monograph is expected in 2022 published by Routledge.
Corporate Cultural "Gifting"
During his postdoc at Stanford University, he shifted his attention to financing cultural institutions by large energy companies. In Russia, he analyzed how Gazprom mobilized history and archaeology museums as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy (CSR) to acquire a license to operate from indigenous communities. Since his tenure at Utrecht, he also studies how oil and gas companies in the Netherlands fund heritage institutions to promote the extraction of gas and downplay environmental hazards.
World Heritage of the Roman Limes
In addition to his heritage research, Plets remains active as an archaeologist. In collaboration with Saskia Stevens and Jaap Verheul, he was awarded a major consortium grant by the Dutch Science Agenda (NWA-Nationale Wetenschapsagenda) to study the archaeology of the Roman frontier in the Netherlands and trace the reception and heritage discourses around the Limes. This project not only deconstructs heritage discourses but also actively assists the Dutch government and public heritage institutions with developing a sustainable and inclusive curation of this contested past. Together with citizen scientists the past is studied and dissemination strategies are developed.