Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
James Kapalo
EASR Conference
Photographic evidence of religious criminality in the Secret Police Archives in 20th Century Moldova
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
The persecution of religious groups under totalitarianism in Eastern Europe is well documented and the various secret police archives from the period have been utilized by researchers in order to trace the history of repression and collaboration and to understand the methods employed by totalitarian regimes to control their populations. The significance of these archives for the study of material religion, however, has been largely overlooked by scholars. The Secret Police archives in Moldova constitute a hidden repository of confiscated religious art, photographs and publications that present an exceptionally rich resource for the study of religions. In this paper I explore the photographic traces in the archives in the Republic of Moldova relating to an Orthodox Christian movement, Inochentism, that was condemned by the authorities as a dangerous sect. The photographic materials, comprising confiscated images of the community and its leaders, photographs taken of convicted members of the community in custody as well as photographic evidence in the form of re-enactments of rituals, demonstrate the power of the photograph to produce knowledge and truths. As Susan Sontag asserts the camera record both “incriminates” and “justifies” (Sontag 1977) and as such the photographic materials within police and secret police files have a dual identity. The images were presented and preserved as evidence of criminality and yet they also stand testimony to the agency and power of religious communities to resist. When viewed in this way they represent both a tool of control as well as a means empowerment for communities seeking to understand their difficult past. This paper presents ongoing research from the European Research Council funded project Hidden Galleries (project no. 677355)
ERC HIdden Galleries (project no. 677355)