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Catherine Wanner

Catherine Wanner

Professor of History, Anthropology and Religious Studies

Barry Director of the Paterno Fellows Program

302 Weaver Building
University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 865-6689

Curriculum Vitae

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  1. PhD, Columbia University, 1996


My current research interests center broadly on the politics of religion and secularizing projects, with special attention to socialist societies.  I am particularly interested in how the shifting politics of religion and processes of secularization in the USSR shaped social and cultural practices in everyday life.  My interest in religion stems from earlier research on nationalism and historical memory in Ukraine and has since broadened to include how religion intersects with migration, forced and elective, as well as globalization in the twentieth-century.

My first book, Burden of Dreams: History and Identity in Post-Soviet Ukraine, analyzed the colonial nature of the Soviet Union from the perspective of Ukrainian nationalists by examining how historical events were reinterpreted as a form of political protest and re-presented in commemorations, festivals, and the urban landscape to articulate a sense of nationhood. My second book, Communities of the Converted: Ukrainians and Global Evangelism won four awards, including the William C. Douglass Best Book Award from the American Anthropological Association and the Heldt Best Book Prize from the Association for Women in Slavic Studies Award. This book explored how religion in the USSR contributed to the formation of alternative moralities, transnational communities, and political engagement, all of which were seen as antithetical to socialist modernity. Most recently, I edited a collection of essays on lived religion in the USSR entitled, State Secularism and Lived Religion in Soviet Russia and Ukraine and co-edited Religion, Morality and Community in Post-Soviet Societies.

I am currently writing a book on how Soviet policies of secularization were experienced in Western Ukrainian territories annexed to the USSR during World War II. I look at how secularizing policies were interwoven with attempts to Sovietize this multiethnic and multiconfessional population, and specifically how this affected popular forms of ritual life. I employ a variety of methods in my research beyond archival work, including semi-structured interviews, life history narratives, and ethnographic methods of participant observation.

Recent Publications:

State Secularism and Lived Religion in Soviet Russia and Ukraine, editor, New York:  Oxford University Press, 2012.

Communities of the Converted: Ukrainians and Global Evangelism. Culture and Society after Socialism Series, Bruce Grant and Nancy Ries, editors, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007.

Burden of Dreams: History and Identity in Post-Soviet Ukraine. Post-Communist Cultural Studies Series, Thomas Cushman, editor, University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 1998.

Awards and Service:

Chairperson, Advisory Council, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Kennan Institute (2012-2016)
Swiss National Science Foundation (2011-2014)
Woskob Family Fund for Ukrainian Studies (2009)
NSF-COBASE Project Development and Initiation Grant (2004-2007)

Research Interests:

Modern Europe:
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