Prof. Patricia E. Spyer

  • Full professor
  • Media, material and visual culture, religion, violence, Indonesia

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 5348
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen, Instituut CA/Ontwikkelingssociologie
Office Address: Pieter de la Court gebouw
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden
Room number 3A23

Prof. Patricia Spyer

Prof. Patricia Spyer holds the chair of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology of Contemporary Indonesia at Leiden University and was Global Distinguished Visiting Professor (2009-2012) at New York University’s Center for Religion & Media and Department of Anthropology. From June – July 2014 she will be a Visiting Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre of the Australian National University (ANU) during the theme year “Now Showing” dedicated to research on visual and digital culture. In November Patricia will visit the ANU again to give a keynote lecture at a conference on “Visual Cultures of Place-making in a Precarious Age.”  Patricia Spyer is one of the coordinators of the research profile Asian Modernities and Traditions.

She is the author of The Memory of Trade: Modernity’s Entanglements on an Eastern Indonesian Island (Duke 2000), editor of Border Fetishisms: Material Objects in Unstable Spaces (Routledge 1998). She co-edited the Handbook of Material Culture (Sage 2006, paperback edition 2013) and, with Mary Margaret Steedly, Images That Move (SAR Press 2013). See Images that Move.

In January 2014 she will be joining the editorial committee of the Annual Review of Anthropology for a five-year term.

Watch a lecture by Prof. Patricia Spyer on You Tube>>


Patricia Spyer has published, among other topics, on violence, media and photography, historical consciousness, materiality, and religion. Her latest book project Orphaned Landscapes focuses on the mediations of violence and postviolence in the recent religiously-inflected conflict in the Moluccas, Indonesia.

Research projects

Archives of the Everyday

From October 31 – November 2nd, Patricia will convene a conference on Archives of the Everyday at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Research (NIAS). The Archives of the Everyday conference aims to set up a research program that will explore in tandem new, emergent understandings of the archive, motivated in part by the burgeoning digital production of our time, and the everyday as the locus of the ordinary, anonymous, and transient that so often has eluded the more eventful, political focus of much archival production. At the program’s core is our engagement with the construction of several collaborative digital archives connected to research carried out in Leiden, Heidelberg, and UCL with partners in Delhi, Shanghai, Indonesia, and the Pacific. Foremost among these are the extensive “research architecture” being built by the Heidelberg Excellenz Cluster “Asia and Europe in a Global Context,” the ongoing “Recording the Future” project on post-Suharto everyday life in Indonesia at the KITLV- Leiden, and current work in the Pacific by UCL researchers such as the Port Vila Mi Lavem Yu, an archive of everyday life that explores the nature of urban experience in Vanuatu.

Bring Your Images Working Group

Patricia Spyer is convenor of the 'Bring Your Images Working Group' (BYI). The working group grew out of a number of informal seminars organized around the theme 'Bring Your Images' which brought together an interdisciplinary group of faculty and graduate students to discuss the images central to their respective research projects and the variety of questions and issues these raise. Since its beginnings in 2007 within the former CNWS Research School, BYI has developed into a wider setting attended not only by graduate students and faculty from  Leiden and elsewhere but also museum curators, archivists and practitioners engaged in various ways with visual media and technologies.
More information on BYI>>

Prince Claus Fund

In September 2012, Patricia Spyer joined the board of the Prince Claus Fund. The Fund is committed to demonstrating the importance of culture in development. Since its inception, the Fund has supported more than 2,500 cultural initiatives, granted Prince Claus Awards to 165 outstanding cultural achievers and provided first aid to cultural heritage in over 100 emergency situations.