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Anthropologist Katherine Verdery, Author of ‘My Life as a Spy,’ Receives Award for Contributions to Slavic and East European Studies 

Katherine Verdery (Photo courtesy of Verdery)

Professor Emerita Katherine Verdery (Anthropology) received the 2020 ASEEES Distinguished Contributions to Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Award in recognition of her work about the region, which has influenced not only the fields of anthropology but also history, sociology, and political science. 

“When I first joined the AAASS (as it was then) back in 1975 or so, the number of anthropologists in it was minuscule,” Verdery says. “In addition to publishing our work, we had to make our field’s potential more visible. Most meaningful to me in this award is the recognition that anthropology has indeed brought something valuable to Slavic and East European studies, and that my colleagues recognize this in my efforts to encourage its growth.” 

Among Verdery’s many influential scholarly works is Transylvanian Villagers: Three Centuries of Political, Economic and Ethnic Change. With sociologist Gail Kligman and an interdisciplinary team of researchers in Romania, she completed a 10-year project to publish Peasants Under Siege: The Collectivization of Romanian Agriculture, 1949-1962, considered a model of collaborative work. 

“Professor Katherine Verdery has profoundly shaped Russian and East European Studies and core debates in the social sciences,” the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), said in its announcement. “An anthropologist of political, economic, and cultural transition in East Central Europe, and particularly Romania, Verdery is a leading ethnographer of the region and theorist of socialism and post-socialism.” 

Verdery, who retired last year, is also the author of a critically acclaimed memoir, My Life as a Spy, an account of her time in communist Romania in the 1970s, where she’d traveled to study village life for her doctoral thesis. The local regime suspected her of being a spy and subjected her to surveillance during the nearly four years she spent in the country. The memoir drew on her analysis of a 2,700-page dossier of reports by informants.

Submitted on: OCT 6, 2020

Category: Anthropology | Faculty Awards | General GC News