Piotr Szpunar

Piotr Szpunar

Associate Professor, Honors Program Coordinator
Department of Communication
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PhD, Communication and Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania

Piotr Szpunar

Research Interests

I am interdisciplinary scholar whose work combines communication and political theory with qualitative political communication research. My work focuses on issues of media, conflict, and memory. My First book, Homegrown: Identity and difference in the American war on terror (NYU, 2018), analyzes the mobilization of the “homegrown” threat in the prosecution of the war on terror. Examining eight cases, including the Boston Marathon bombing, I provide a genealogy of homegrown terrorism and develop the notion of “the Double” to complement and challenge theories about how enemies are constructed and communicated in and for war. I have also co-edited a book (w/ Mehdi Semati and Robert Brookey) on ISIS and media (Routledge, 2018). My recent interdisciplinary work has appeared in Communication Theory, Security Dialogue, and Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

I am currently working on two projects:

Phatic Violence

The first examines dispersed or stochastic terrorism against the backdrop of digital phatic culture. The project analyzes a variety of “lone wolf” incidents and focuses on the use and role of media therein as well as notions of connectivity. The project brings together Roman Jakobson’s notion of phatic communication and Hannah Arendt’s concept of the banality of evil, alongside media scholarship to rethink the communicative and functional nature of political violence in the digital age, reassess its disruptive nature as a media event, and challenge hypodermic models of radicalization.

Collective Futures

The second project is a monograph on “places of future,” the spaces, objects, and ideas invested in shaping structures and relations that do not yet exist but are essential to present politics. Building on work in the field of “collective memory” this project examines how groups imagine, conjure, project, and envision their future(s) through media, writ broadly. This project links John Durham Peters’s notion of elemental media to other scholars who have theorized the future (Massumi, Kosselleck, Derrida). It analyzes how collectives negotiate and build these futures in present space, creating infrastructures intended to usher their visions into reality. Cases in progress: national and corporate missions to Mars, New York City’s Big U Project, and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.