Public Lecture | My Life as a Spy, with Katherine Verdery (CUNY)

Thursday, September 27, 2018 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm
E24 Machmer Hall | UMass Amherst
There’s nothing like reading your secret police file to make you wonder who you really are.” So begins anthropologist Katherine Verdery’s new book, My Life as a Spy: Investigations in a Secret Police File.

Verdery is Julien J. Studley Faculty Scholar and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Since 1973 she has conducted field research in Romania, studying the political economy of social inequality, ethnic relations, and nationalism. With the changes of 1989, her work shifted to problems of the transformation of socialist systems. Her most recent book takes off from her Secret Police file, which she received from the Romanian government in 2008.

In My Life as a Spy, Verdery tells the riveting and complicated story of discovering that during her decades of ethnographic research in Romania, numerous friends and colleagues had informed on her to the secret police.  The New York Times Book Review said My Life is “ a fascinating, thoughtful and occasionally riveting book….. She employs three different perspectives: hers at that time (as captured in her field notes and personal letters), the secret police’s (as captured in its notes and reports on her) and hers today. She also uses the file to track down and interview several of the officers who handled her case as well as friends who informed on her. She approaches these confrontations not in a spirit of moral reckoning, but as an ethnographer trying to understand the social logic of surveillance under socialism.”

This event is co-sponsored by the Departments of Anthropology and Sociology, Institute for Social Science Research, Interdisciplinary Studies Institute, Anthropology Department European Fieldstudies Program, Modern European Studies Program, and College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.ecrets and Truths: Ethnography in the Archive of Romania's Secret Police.

No registration is required for this public lecture.

Additional Seminar with Author | Advance Registration required

Friday | September 28 | 10:30 am - 12:00 pm | Machmer E24

Faculty and graduate students are invited to an informal seminar with Professor Verdery.
A pdf of the introduction to My Life as a Spy is available upon request.  Reading the whole book is recommended.  
​Contact:  Prof. Janice Irvine (Sociology) or Jacqueline Urla (Anthropology/Modern European Studies), for more information.


Katherine Verdery is Julien J. Studley Faculty Scholar and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and the author of many books, including The Political Lives of Dead Bodies (Columbia University Press, 2000), The Vanishing Hectare: Property and Value in Postsocialist Transylvania Winner of the prestigious J.I. Staley Prize, (Cornell University Press, 2003), Peasants under Siege: The Collectivization of Romanian Agriculture, 1949-1962 ( Princeton University Press 2011), and Secrets and Truths: Ethnography in the Archive of the Romanian Secret Police (Central European University Press, 2014). She is the winner of numerous awards and honors.

Prof. Verdery Image Credit: Juan Carlos Arevalo.