Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Catherine Wanner

Catherine Wanner

Professor of History, Anthropology and Religious Studies

302 Weaver Building

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: (814) 865-6689

Curriculum Vitae:


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



My research centers broadly on the politics of religion, secularism, and human rights in the former Soviet Union and is fundamentally interdisciplinary in its theoretical and methodological approaches. As a cultural anthropologist who does historically-informed ethnographic research, I 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 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, political protest as well as globalization.

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 book, Everyday Religiosity and the Politics of Belonging in Ukraine (2021), explores how everyday religiosity shapes public space and secular public institutions. Overall, I employ a variety of methods in my research beyond archival work, including interviews, life history narratives, and ethnographic methods of participant observation. I am the founder and convenor of a research initiative, the Working Group for the Study of Religion in the Black Sea Region.

Recent Publications:

“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)

 “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)

“Public Religions after Socialism:  Redefining Norms of Difference” Religion, State and Society, 46:2 (2018), 88-95.

Awards and Service:

• 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: