Inhaltspezifische Aktionen

Laura Popa

About me

I am an international Ph.D. candidate in History and Cultural Studies and a recipient of the Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst scholarship. During my master's and bachelor's years, I studied History, History of Religions, and Philosophy at Università degli Studi di Torino & Università degli Studi di Perugia in Italy, as well as at Universitatea "Al. I. Cuza" Iaşi in Romania. My perspective on life is to learn as much as possible about the world, people, and cultures. As a result, I consider myself a global citizen.

The dissertation project I am currently working on is called Protestant Women Teachers in Nineteenth-Century Italy: Nation-State Building at the Crossroads of Gender, Culture, and Religion, 1860-1915, which investigates for the first time how a group of minority Protestant women tried to build the Italian nation through professional teaching and missionary activities. Its primary focus is on the history of native Italian Protestant women who taught elementary school in post-unification Italy as part of the Waldensian Church's evangelization effort. After the unification of Italy, religious dissidents were freed from centuries of persecution and exile in the Waldensian Valleys to reach out to the new Italian nation outside their so-called ghetto. To contribute to nation-building, the Church opened elementary schools in Italy and mainly sent women to teach. 

The objective of this project is threefold. First, through a prosopographic analysis, it explores three generations of elementary school teachers within Waldensian communities of diaspora as they evolved from evangelization, with a specific focus on their religious conversion and its consequences (e.g., discrimination) and gender relations. Second, by following their professional and missionary activities and mobility, this study aims to demonstrate how the entanglements of gender, cultural, and religious identities made them act as hybrids (in a sense given by Homi Bhabha and Pnina Werbner) in the Italian nation-state building (seen as third space), thus contributing to its religious and cultural diversity. Third, it examines how Protestant teachers perceived the concept of nation, their political opinions, and their role in the creation and development of Italian national school education.

In this project, I argue that the Protestant faith-based mission for evangelization was the primary motivator for Waldensian women teachers' entry into the public sphere through professional teaching, the same way their counterparts in other Protestant countries did. This demonstrates the global Protestant world's connections and presence even in Italy during that time. My research based on archival and press sources proposes, thus, the first attempt to analyze women's history in Italy through the lenses of the local and global interconnectedness of nineteenth-century Protestantism.

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Philipp David (Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen), Prof. Dr. Martin Baumeister (Deutsche Historische Institut in Rom &  Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München), Prof. Dr. Lothar Vogel (Waldensian Facolty of Theology in Rome)

Research Interests

  • Women's and Gender History
  • Religious Minorities
  • Concept of Hybridity
  • Nationalism Studies
  • History of Feminism (e.g., First and Second Wave, Religious)
  • Feminist Theory (e.g., Sexual Difference)
  • Cultural History of Christianity (e.g., Protestantism, Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism)

Research activities

  • January-August 2023. Visiting Scholarship with Dining Rights and Senior Combination Room membership at Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge, UK (Sidney Sussex College / Sponsoring Fellow Prof. Eugenio Biagini & Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst grants) [forthcoming]
  • January-March 2023. Traineeship at Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge (Erasmus+ Staff Mobility for Training grant of JLU Gießen) [forthcoming]
  • 15-19.082022. Partecipation at Villigst Sommeruniversität 2022, seminar A4 »Gehet hin und machet zu Jüngern alle Völker« – christliche Mission im 21. Jahrhundert? (Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst grant)
  • 21-22.07.2022. Participation as note-taker in the workshop The Pursuit of Science in Conservative Religious Settings since 1945, JLU Gießen & a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne & German Historical Institute in Washington, Cologne, Germany (Gerda Henkel Stiftung grant)
  • January-October 2021. Archival research at the Waldensian Church Archives & Library of the Society for Waldensian Studies in Torre Pellice, Italy (Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture & Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst grants)
  • October-December 2020. Research stay at the German Historical Institute Rome, Italy (Max Weber Foundation grant)
  • December 2020. Participation in the online Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (American Academy of Religion travel grant)
  • July 2019. Participation at the XVI CISPEA Summer School Nazione/nazionalismi nella storia statunitense (Nation/Nationalisms in the History of the United States) in Carpineto-Reggio Emilia, Italy (Centro interuniversitario di storia e politica euroamericana & Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture grants)
  • March 2019. Archival research at the Waldensian Church Archives & Library of the Society for Waldensian Studies in Torre Pellice, Italy (Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture grant)
  • October 2019-September 2021. Co-Speaker of Research Area 6: Cultural Identities (Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture)


  • Scuole e insegnanti valdesi, in "Nuova storia dei valdesi", vol. IV,  a cura di Paolo Naso, Claudiana, Torino [forthcoming in 2024]
  • Religion and Cultural Hybridity in Protestant Europe (XVI-XIX Centuries), in "Cultural Identities in a Global World: Reframing Cultural Hybridity", ed. by Laura Popa, Roeland Goorts, and Smadar Lavie, and with a Foreword by Pnina Werbner, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier (with Roeland Goorts) [forthcoming in 2023]
  • Comprendere la Riforma in Italia attraverso la biografia di una donna dissenziente, in "Quellen und Forschungen aus italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken", DHI Rom, De Gruyter, Nr. 103. Book review of Susanna Peyronel Rambald, "Giulia Gonzaga. A Gentlewoman in the Italian Reformation", trans. by Richard Bates, Viella, Roma 2021 [forthcoming in 2023]
  • Maestre elementari valdesi nell’Italia dell’Ottocento (1860-1915), ovvero come un gruppo di donne delle minoranze mirarono a costruire la nazione, in "Riforma e movimenti religiosi", Rivista della Società di Studi Valdesi, Claudiana, Nr. 12 (2022)
  • Conference Report on "Cultural Identities in a Global World: Reframing Cultural Hybridity", in "KULT_online. Review Journal for the Study of Culture", 64 (2021) (with Clara Verri)
  • Cultural Identities in a Global World: Reframing Cultural Hybridity, in H-Soz-Kult, 15.01.2021. Call for Papers (with Clara Verri)
  • Womanhood, Female Agency, and Jewish Identities in the Nineteenth-Century Italian and German (Trans)National States, in "KULT_online. Review Journal for the Study of Culture", 63 (2021). Book review of Martin Baumeister, Philipp Lenhard, Ruth Nattermann (ed.), "Comparative and Transnational Perspectives on Gender, Family, and Religion in Italy and Germany, 1800-1918", Berghahn Books 2020
  • Difference as Affirmation. The Restoring of Motherhood in the Western Civilization, in "KULT_online. Review Journal for the Study of Culture", 59 (2019). Book review of Luisa Muraro, "The Symbolic Order of the Mother", Sunny Press, New York 2019



  • Publication of biographies of Italian Protestant women teachers in "Dizionario biografico on-line dei Protestanti in Italia", edited by the Society for Waldensian Studies and funded by Otto per mille della Chiesa Valdese Unione delle Chiese Valdesi e Metodiste [under review]
  • Publication of the edited volume Cultural Identities in a Global World: Reframing Cultural Hybridity with Prof. Dr. Emerita Smadar Lavie (UC Davis) and Dr. Roeland Goorts (Maryland Global Campus), and with a Foreword by Prof. Dr. Emerita Pnina Werbner (Keele University), Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, GCSC Series (funded by the Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture as a project of the Research Area 6: Cultural Identities and supervised by Prof. Dr. Andreas Langenohl, JLU Gießen) [forthcoming in 2023]
  • The international and interdisciplinary conference Cultural Identities in a Global World: Reframing Cultural Hybridity, GCSC, June 23-25, 2021, with Clara Verri (online and funded by the Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture as a project of the Research Area 6: Cultural Identities)