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Women Scholars of Orthodox Christianity

Everyday Religiosity and the Politics of Belonging in UkraineA Conversation with Catherine Wanner

  • Catherine Wanner

    Professor of History, Anthropology, and Religious Studies at The Pennsylvania State University.

  • Ashley Purpura

    Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Purdue University

Published on: April 24, 2023
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This episode of “Women Scholars of Orthodox Christianity” features a conversation with Catherine Wanner.

Highly visible, vernacular religious practices make the presence of religious institutions in the public sphere in Ukraine possible and influential, even among non-believers, critics, and skeptics. The ongoing presence of clergy, religious symbolism, and religious sentiment in public space in Ukraine and other predominantly Eastern Christian societies creates an “affective atmosphere of religiosity.” This atmosphere makes religion a valuable political resource for states that claim to be secular. I argue that an “affective atmosphere of religiosity” allows religion to be secularized into “culture” and “heritage” and therefore remain meaningful even to non-believers and fierce critics of organized religion in predominantly Eastern Christian societies.

Analyzing how an affective atmosphere of religiosity forms and becomes politically useful in Ukraine reveals how and why religion became such a powerful undercurrent in the hybrid war with Russia from 2014-2022 and why, after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, there is now a proxy war among religious institutions that mirrors conflicts on the battlefield. Religion plays a key role in defining space as it relates to issues of sovereignty, belonging, and sacredness, which facilitates the “weaponization” and “securitization” of religion to advance political, military, and humanitarian agendas since 2022.

The Orthodox Christian Studies Center is delighted to present this series highlighting the scholarly insights and academic careers of female scholars whose research and writing explore some facet of the history, thought, or culture of Orthodox Christianity.

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Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in this essay are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.

About authors

  • Catherine Wanner

    Catherine Wanner

    Professor of History, Anthropology, and Religious Studies at The Pennsylvania State University.

    Catherine Wanner is a historical anthropologist and Professor of History, Anthropology, and Religious Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. Using ethnographic and archival methods, her research centers on the politics of religion and increasingly on conflict mediation, animal rights, and tra...

    Read author's full bio and see articles by this author
  • Ashley Purpura

    Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Purdue University

    Ashley Purpura is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, a Faculty fellow of the Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts Program, and the Director of the Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program at Purdue University. She received her Ph.D. at Ford...

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Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in the articles on this website are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.

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Public Orthodoxy is a publication of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University