Disability and Mobile Citizenship in Postsocialist Ukraine (Indiana University Press, 2011)

This monograph examines the struggles of disabled persons in the former Soviet states to secure their rights during the tumultuous political, economic and social reforms of the last two decades. Through participant observation and interviews with disabled Ukrainians from all walks of life—rights activists, politicians, students, workers, entrepreneurs, athletes, and others—Phillips documents the creative strategies used by people on the margins of postsocialist societies to assert claims to what she calls mobile citizenship. The author draws on this rich ethnographic material to argue for public storytelling as a powerful means to expand notions of relatedness, kinship, and social responsibility to shape a more tolerant and inclusive society in postsocialist states like Ukraine.  

» This book has been reviewed in H-Disability and on the scholarly weblog Somatosphere.


Women's Social Activism in the New Ukraine: Development and the Politics of Differentiation (Indiana University Press, 2008)

“Democratization, privatization, and women's lives in postsocialist Ukraine”

In postsocialist Ukraine, with privatization and the scaling back of the social safety net, it is primarily women who have been left as leaders of service-oriented NGOs and mutual aid associations, caring for the marginalized and destitute with little or no support from the Ukrainian state. Sarah D. Phillips follows 11 activists over the course of several years to document the unexpected effects that social activism has produced for women: increasing social inequality and "differentiation" in the form of new cultural criteria for productive citizenship and new definitions of the rights and needs of various categories of citizens.

» This book has been reviewed in the Association for Women in Slavic Studies newsletter and on H-net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online.


“Shapes in the Wax,” Ethnographic Video

In the late 1990s, Sarah D. Phillips traveled around rural Western Ukraine to study the practices of elderly women folk healers known as “babky.”  The result of this research is an ethnographic video, “Shapes in the Wax: Tradition and Faith among Folk Medicine Practitioners in Rural Ukraine” (2004), in which the healers demonstrate their rituals and reflect on their lives as elders, healers, and women in Ukraine. Besides introducing these folk medicine rituals, “Shapes in the Wax” is a useful tool to introduce students to ethnographic research methods and fundamental concepts in medical anthropology. 

» For more information on this project and the several companion articles to the video that have been published in English and Ukrainian, see "Ukrainian Folk Medicine" under the Research tab.


Pripyat (Photo: Evgenia Ivanova)

Photo: Evgenia Ivanova

“Chernobyl Forever,” Invited feature essay in Somatosphere

For a time, it seemed as if the 25th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster might come and go relatively unnoticed and unremarked, at least by those persons with no direct experience of it. The nuclear accident at Chernobyl (Chornobyl’ in Ukrainian) came to be seen as a quintessentially “Soviet” phenomenon, the devastating consequence of systemic problems in the Soviet system of government. The world got comfortable with the assumption that the Chernobyl catastrophe was the product of a specific place, time, and flawed system—a terrible exception that could not happen anywhere else.

» Somatosphere is a collaborative scholarly website covering the intersections of medical anthropology, science and technology studies, cultural psychiatry, psychology and bioethics.



I am Treasurer for the Association for Women in Slavic Studies (AWSS), a scholarly organization that sponsors research and teaching for scholars interested in women's and gender studies in Central/Eastern Europe, Russia, and Eurasia.

I am also a member of the editorial board of Disability Studies Quarterly, the journal of the Society for Disability Studies (SDS). It is a multidisciplinary and international journal of interest to social scientists, scholars in the humanities, disability rights advocates, creative writers, and others concerned with the issues of people with disabilities.

I was elected Board Member-at-large, Association for the Advancement of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) for 2015-2017.

From 2008-2013, I was editor of the Anthropology of East Europe Review (AEER), a biannual edited journal of scholarship on Eastern Europe, Russia, the Balkans, and Central Asia.  The journal’s mission is to showcase fresh, up-to-date research and to help build a community of scholars who focus on the region.  The journal’s content is now freely available on the Internet through the Open Journal System (OJS).

I also teach and conduct research in a number of areas including:

Medical Anthropology; Central and Eastern Europe; the Former Soviet Union, especially Ukraine and Russia; postsocialist transformations; civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs); globalization; development; gender studies; post-Chernobyl health and healing; folk medicine; disability studies; HIV-AIDS; and addiction.