Sean Griffin

Academic Appointments

Postdoctoral Fellow, Society of Fellows

Sean Griffin is a historian, philologist, and religious theorist, specializing in the most ancient and most recent periods of Russian civilization. His research is interdisciplinary and brings together fields as diverse as medieval religion and new media theory, Byzantine liturgy and Russian Alaska, the history of propaganda and post-Soviet digital culture.

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His first book, The Liturgical Past in Byzantium and Early Rus, will be published in August 2019 with Cambridge University Press. In the work, Griffin uncovers the liturgical origins of Slavic historiography and shows that the myth of origins for Rus, a myth promulgated even today by the Russian Orthodox church, originated in the religious services of the Byzantine Empire.

Griffin is currently at work on two new projects. The first is a book on post-Soviet political propaganda and religion, provisionally entitled Putin’s Holy Trinity: Orthodoxy, Media, and the Military in Post-Soviet Russia. The premise of the work is that Russian identity in the twenty-first century remains a product of deeply internalized ritual practices, which serve to organize a profoundly pluralistic population into an imagined political community. In the middle ages, Christian liturgy largely played this identity-making role in East Slavic societies, but in contemporary Russia these rites are complimented by a newer set of public rituals, such as patriotic military spectacles and the daily consumption of television news programs. In the book, Griffin reconstructs this postmodern ritual habitus for an Anglophone audience and considers the nature of truth, faith, and political power in the digital age.

Griffin’s other work-in-progress is a multimedia collaboration. Together with Randall Balmer, he is currently filming a documentary about the Russian colonization of America and the ongoing role of Russian Orthodoxy in the lives of modern-day Alaskan natives, such as the Aleutian and Yupik peoples. The film is a companion piece to their co-authored book on the subject, Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska: Old World Faith in the New World.

Griffin earned his Ph.D. from UCLA. He was most recently a VolkswagenStiftung fellow at Westfälische Wilhems-Universität in Münster, Germany, and before that he spent time as a visiting professor at Stanford University.

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Reed Hall, room 211A
HB 6085