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Natalie Kononenko

The Clio Prizes

2024

Natalie Kononenko, Ukrainian Ritual on the Prairies: Growing a Ukrainian Canadian Identity. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2023.

Natalie Kononenko’s Ukrainian Ritual on the Prairies contributes meaningfully to the scholarship on prairie settler history.  In particular, it provides a unique window into the evolving vernacular religion in the Ukrainian diaspora in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Rather than focusing on institutional church history, Kononenko draws on ten years of field work and hundreds of oral interviews with parishioners to take the reader inside the church, the nexus of community relations and custodian of settler cosmology. Kononenko demonstrates how aspects of Ukrainian settler culture and family life, such as marriage, birth, death, and holiday rituals, became entwined with the idea of prairie Canada to create an ethno-religious Ukrainian-Canadian culture specific to the prairies. Focusing on the latter half of the twentieth century, Kononenko explores everyday Ukrainian-Canadian religiosity and its transmission between generations, adding to the scholarship on prairie settler ethnography and eastern European immigrants. Contrasting the variations in the practices of rural and urban communities serves as a further reminder of the influence of place – a compelling reflection as this particular rural settler community has ebbed due to age and larger socio-economic forces leading to rural depopulation. Ukrainian Ritual on the Prairies highlights the importance of oral history and memory as significant avenues of scholarship for ethnographic and religious history of the prairies and one of the world’s largest Ukrainian diasporas.