Kathryn Ciancia

I am an historian of modern Eastern Europe, with a research focus on Poland between the two world wars. In my current book project I explore the ways in which Polish national identity was shaped by perceptions of—and encounters with—Poland’s multiethnic eastern borderlands. Drawing on historical geography and environmental history, I show how a range of Polish actors, including border guards, boy and girl scouts, ethnographers, and military settlers, linked the physical spaces of everyday life with imagined hierarchies of civilization between Ukrainians, Jews, Poles, and others. Based on archival research in Poland, Ukraine, the U.S., and the U.K., my work looks beyond official minority policies and toward how the nation was imagined through local experiences of marshlands, village huts, and town streets.

Furthering my work on the links between physical spaces, projected identities, and hierarchies of civilization, I am beginning work on a new transnational history of the relationships between the Polish interwar state, Polish citizens abroad, and members of the Polish diaspora.

My teaching interests include modern Europe and Eastern Europe, Poland, mass violence, nationalism, and ethnic relations. In my classes I like to experiment with innovative assignments, including those that ask students to create and develop fictional historical characters.


  • PhD - Stanford University
  • MA - University College London
  • BA - University of Oxford 

Selected Publications:

  • “Borderland Modernities: Poles, Jews, and Urban Spaces in Interwar Volhynia,” Journal of Modern History, forthcoming, 2017.
  • Review of Brian Porter-Szűcs, Poland in the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdom, Patrice Dabrowski, Poland: The First Thousand Years, in Journal of Modern History 88, no. 3 (September 2016): 709–711.
  • “Creating Lives: Fictional Characters in the History Classroom,” Perspectives on History (October 2013) (with Edith Sheffer)

Selected Awards:

  • 2015 Center for the Humanities First Book Award, UW-Madison.
  • Mellon Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, 2011
  • Vice Provost for Graduate Education Diversity Dissertation Research Award, 2008-09
  • History Department Five-Year Fellowship, Stanford University, 2005-10

Advisor To:

  • Piotr Puchalski

History Courses:

Kathryn Ciancia

Assistant Professor



4133 Mosse Humanities

4019 Mosse Humanities

Office Hours: