Skip to main content

Maya Nadkarni

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Sociology & Anthropology


  2. Phone: (610) 328-8111
  3. Kohlberg 244
  4. Office Hours: On sabbatical fall 2019- spring 2020


Ph.D. with Distinction in Cultural Anthropology, Columbia University, 2009
A.B. cum laude in Social Anthropology, Harvard University, 1992.

Selected Publications

Remains of Socialism: Memory and the Futures of the Past in Postsocialist Hungary, forthcoming from Cornell University Press.

Response to "A Questionnaire on Monuments." October 165 (Summer 2018): 134-137.

“Warnings from the Future? Central European University and the Fate of Europe,” Invited contribution to Cultural Anthropology’s Hot Spots web series on “Knowledge in the Time of Crisis: What can liberalism learn from (post)socialism?” April 25, 2018.

“‘What Happened to Jokes?’:  The shifting landscape of humor in Hungary” (with Martha Lampland). East European Politics & Societies and Cultures 30 (2) May 2016, pp. 449-471.

“The Politics of Nostalgia in the Aftermath of Socialism’s Collapse: A Case for Comparative Analysis” (with Olga Shevchenko), Anthropology and Nostalgia, Olivia Ange and David Berliner, eds. (New York: Berghahn Books), 2014, pp. 61-95.

“The Postsocialist Life of State Socialism’s Secrets,” Invited column for the Soyuz Postsocialist Studies Network section of the Anthropology News website. October 2013.

"'But it's ours': Nostalgia and the politics of cultural identity in postsocialist Hungary," Postcommunist Nostalgia, Maria Todorova and Zsuzsa Gille, eds. New York: Berghahn Books, 2010.

"The Master's Voice: Authenticity, nostalgia, and the refusal of irony in postsocialist Hungary," Social Identities 13(5), September 2007.

"The death of socialism and the afterlife of its monuments: Making and marketing the past in Budapest's Statue Park Museum," Contested Pasts (Memory and Narrative), Kate Hodgkin, Steve Sturdy, and Susannah Radstone, eds. London: Routledge, 2003.

Teaching and Research Interests

Cultural memory and national identity; anthropology of postsocialism and Eastern Europe (Hungary); visuality, mass media, and visual anthropology; anthropology of gender and the family; anthropology of knowledge; genetics, temporality, and risk.

My scholarship investigates the politics of memory and the challenges of historical subjectivity after the end of state socialism.  My first book, Remains of Socialism, is forthcoming from Cornell University Press and examines the changing fate of the socialist past in Hungary.  I introduce the concept of “remains”—both physical objects and ambivalent cultural remainders—to analyze all that Hungarians sought to leave behind after the end of state socialism.  

Currently, I am working on a manuscript tentatively titled The Postsocialist Life of State Socialism’s Secrets.  This project examines contemporary debates about Hungary’s communist state security archives, where access is still more limited than among Hungary’s former Soviet-bloc neighbors.  I draw upon ethnographic and archival research, as well as examples from the arts, media, and political debates, to illuminate how a broad range of contemporary subjects—from historians and journalists, to artists and writers, to archivists and historical commissions—all produce knowledge from and about the archive.  

I am also beginning preliminary research that examines the risk-reducing choices faced by women in both Hungary and the US who have a high genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer.  By looking at how these women negotiate both family memories of disease and the seeming prophecy of their own illness, I hope to use the insights of medical anthropology to continue my investigation into how communities negotiate painful pasts, uncertain presents, and desired or dreaded futures.  

Courses and Seminars Taught

  • First Year Seminar- Culture and Gender (ANTH 002D)
  • Mass Media and Anthropology (ANTH 032D)
  • Memory, History, Nation (ANTH 072C)
  • Political Anthropology (ANTH 042D)
  • Anthropology of Childhood and the Family (ANTH 002F)
  • Visual Anthropology (072D)