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Piotr M. Szpunar is an Associate Professor at the University at Albany, SUNY’s Department of Communication. His research focuses on media in two areas: political violence and public memory. The first includes work on counterterrorism practices centered on dispersed actors or lone wolves, enemy images, and the media tactics of extremist groups; the second centers on the spatial politics of commemoration and imagined collective futures.

His first book is Homegrown: Identity and Difference in the American War on Terror (NYU Press, 2018). Based on research into public controversies over labelling violence “terror,” sting operations, and extra-judicial killings, he analyzes the rise of the “homegrown terrorist” in relation to racialized anxieties over the reach of digital media, the counterterrorism practices it underwrites, and the unequal experiences of citizenship that result. He is also co-editor (with Mehdi Semati and Robert Brookey) of ISIS Beyond the Spectacle: Communication Media, Networked Publics, and Terrorism (Routledge, 2018). His work on political violence and counterterrorism appears in Communication Theory, Security Dialogue, and Surveillance & Society, among others. His work on public memory and collective futures appears equally across disciplinary boundaries, in Memory Studies, International Journal of Communication, and Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.


He is currently working on two monograph projects:


Futures, space, and technology. Interested in how imagined futures reshape our pasts and present, this project examines how utopian and dystopian visions spur efforts to reshape physical environments both on Earth and beyond in order usher in or avert those futures. Against the backdrop of climate change, the project analyzes the relationship between visions of various timescales, technologies, and the elemental—soil, ice, water, seeds—at three sites: Mars, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, and the Manhattan shoreline.


Phatic violence. This project examines dispersed/stochastic terrorism against the backdrop of digital phatic culture. 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.


Piotr is also a (now occasional) percussionist/composer.

Contact: pszpunar [at]



Dual Ph.D., Communication and Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

B.A., Political Science, University of Waterloo

Adv. Dip., Composition, Humber College

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