Pels, Prof. P.J. (Peter)

  • Full professor
  • Global Politics, Ethics, Religion and Magic, History of Anthropology, Colonial History, Anthropology of the Future, Global Africa, Tanzania

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 3458
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen, Instituut CA/Ontwikkelingssociologie
Office Address: Pieter de la Court gebouw
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden
Room number 3A25


Peter Pels (1958) is professor in the anthropology of sub-Saharan Africa at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology of Leiden University. In 1993 he graduated in social anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, on a study of Catholicism in East Africa. Between 1995 and 2003 he worked at the Research Centre Religion and Society of the University of Amsterdam. He was the editor-in-chief of Social Anthropology / Anthropologie sociale, the journal of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, between 2003 and 2007.

Peter Pels is one of the coordinators of the research profile Global Interactions of of Civilizations and Languages.

About his research

He is a specialist in the study of religion and politics in situations of colonial contact, the history of anthropology, the anthropology of magic, and social science ethics. He supervises research on religion and cyberculture, the comparative study of images of the future, colonial photography and cinematic representation, water conservation and natural heritage, brand advertising and nationalism, and is an advisor on religion and materiality to the Çatalhöyük Research Project, led by world-leading archaeologist Ian Hodder, since 2007.

He is currently finishing a book entitled 'The Spirit of Matter. Religion, Modernity and the Power of Objects', and supervises a research project financed by the Dutch National Research Foundation entitled “The Future is Elsewhere: Towards a Comparative History of the Futurities of the Digital ®evolution” (2010-2014).