Department ofHistory

Catherine Wanner

Catherine Wanner

Professor of History, Anthropology and Religious Studies

302 Weaver Building

University Park, PA 16802

Curriculum Vitae:


PhD, Columbia University
MA, Columbia University
BA, Franklin & Marshall College
Catherine Wanner Headshot


I am a cultural anthropologist who does historically informed ethnographic research to explore how the shifting politics of religion and processes of secularization in the USSR have shaped social and cultural practices in everyday life in post-Soviet societies.  My research is fundamentally interdisciplinary in its theoretical and methodological approaches. I employ a variety of methods beyond archival work, including interviews, life history narratives, and ethnographic methods of participant observation.  My interest in religion stems from earlier research I did on nationalism and historical memory in Ukraine and has since broadened to include how religion intersects with war, the politics of belonging, and migration. 

My first book, Burden of Dreams: History and Identity in Post-Soviet Ukraine (1998), analyzes the colonial nature of the Soviet Union 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 after 1991. Communities of the Converted: Ukrainians and Global Evangelism (2007), my second monograph, explores the prominent role religion assumed in public life in post-Soviet Ukraine. It also considers how religion contributes to the formation of transnational communities, alternative moralities, and political engagement. I have edited and contributed to three collections of essays on lived religion that span the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, including Religion, Morality and Community in Post-Soviet Societies (2008; co-edited with Mark Steinberg); State Secularism and Lived Religion in Soviet Russia and Ukraine (2012); and The Anthropology of Religion: Comparative Studies from the Carpathians to the Caucasus (2019; co-edited with Julia Buyskykh, in Ukrainian).  

My most recent publications address the Russo-Ukrainian war and include Everyday Religiosity and the Politics of Belonging in Ukraine (2022), a monograph that explores how everyday religiosity shapes public space, public institutions, and the politics of belonging, and an edited volume, Dispossession:  Anthropological Perspectives on Russia’s War against Ukraine (2023). I am currently writing a book that analyzes how animals have been affected by the war and, in turn, how animals have shaped perceptions of the war itself. The working title is Animals and War: Empathy and Healing during the Russo-Ukrainian War. Lastly, I am the founder and since 2014 the convenor of a research initiative, the Working Group on Lived Religion in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.  See 

Recent Publications:

Editor, Dispossession:  Anthropological Perspectives on Russia’s War against Ukraine.  New York: Routledge. Forthcoming November 2023 

Everyday Religiosity and the Politics of Belonging in Ukraine. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 2022 Link 

“A Gallery of Ghosts:  Death and Reburial in Lands Marked by Trauma” with Zuzanna Bogumil, Sergei Shtrykov, and Ketevan Gurchani. Material Religion 19(3). 2023. 

“Sectarian Traitors?: Factors that Supported and Thwarted Conversion among Baptist Communities under Two Regimes in the Early Twentieth Century” Review of Ecumenical Studies 22(1): 218-239. 2022. Open Access. 

“Empathic Care and Healing the Wounds of War in Ukraine” Emotions and Society. 3(1): 155-70. 2021. 

“An Affective Atmosphere of Religiosity: Animated Places, Public Spaces and the Politics of Attachment in Ukraine and Beyond” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 62:1 (2020): 68-105. 

“Empathy and the Militant Middle Ground” History and Anthropology, 31:1(2020): 21-23. 

“Commemoration and the New Frontiers of War in Ukraine” Slavic Review 79:2 (2019):  4-11. 

Antropolohiia Relihii:  Porivnial’ni Studii vid Prikarpattia do Kavkazu. [The Anthropology of Religion: Comparative Studies from the Carpathians to the Caucasus] (Kyiv: Dukh i Litera, 2019; co-edited with Julia Buyskykh; in Ukrainian) Link 

“Religion and the Cultural Geography of Ukraine” in Regionalism without Regions: Reconceptualizing Ukraine’s Heterogeneity, Ulrich Schmid and Oksana Myshlovska, eds. (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2019), 247-   296 (co-authored with Viktor Yelenskii) Link 

Awards and Service:

• 2023-24 Jacyk Distinguished Fellowship, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute 

• 2020 Distinguished Scholar Award, Association for the Study of Eastern Christianity

• Fulbright Scholar, Ukrainian Catholic University, L’viv, Ukraine, 2019-20

• Welch Alumni Relations Award, College of the Liberal Arts, Penn State, 2018

• Visiting Scholar, Institut für Europäische Ethnologie, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, 2016-17

• Chairperson, Academic Advisory Council, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Kennan Institute (2011-2016)

• Swiss National Science Foundation Research Grants (2011-2014); (2015-2018) and (2019-2023)

• William C. Douglass Best Book Award, American Anthropological Association (2008)

• Heldt Best Book Prize, Association for Women in Slavic Studies (2008)

• Best Book Prize, American Association of Ukrainian Studies (2008)

• Harvard Davis Center Outstanding Monograph in Political and Social Studies Honorable Mention, Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (2008)

• Choice Outstanding Academic Title, American Library Association (2008)

Areas of Specialization:

Modern Europe 



Areas of Specialization: