Waldo Gifford Leland Award: Sonja Luehrmann

Sonja Luehrmann, associate professor of anthropology at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, and the 2015-2016 EURIAS fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, is the 2016 recipient of the Society of American Archivists' Waldo Gifford Leland Award for her book, Religion in Secular Archives: Soviet Atheism and Historical Knowledge, published by Oxford University Press. 

Established in 1959, the Waldo Gifford Leland Award is given for writing of superior excellence and usefulness in the fields of archival history, theory, and practice. In Religion in Secular Archives, Luehrmann offers a thoughtful approach to the study of religious practice in 1950s–1970s Soviet Russia. Based on research in locations as diverse as the multi-religious Volga region, Moscow, and Texas, Luehrmann focuses on archival documents generated by militantly atheist institutions and urges us to consider how these sources were produced, exchanged, and read. Acknowledging that documentation practices sustain systems of power, Luehrmann closely examines archival research when available sources are produced by people different than or in conflict with those being described. She combines official archival documents with oral history, published sources, and alternative counter-archives, creating a thorough narrative of modern Soviet religiosity.

The Award Committee noted that Luehrmann’s “consideration of the UK-based Keston Institute’s counter-archive and its filing systems will further cement archivists’ recognition of the power at stake when we arrange and describe our holdings.”