Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
James Kapalo
Guest Lecture
Hidden Galleries: Secret Police Archives and Material Religion
University of Chester
Invited Seminars/Guest Lectures
Optional Fields
The persecution of churches and religious groups under communism (and to a lesser degree under Fascism) 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 Secret Police archives in Romania and Moldova, however, also constitute a hidden repository of confiscated religious art, materials and publications that in many cases survive nowhere else, presenting an exceptionally rich resource for the study of religions in the 20th century. The significance of these archives for the study of material religion, however, has been largely overlooked by scholars. This article, through an exploration of the archival holdings of the secret police, military courts and gendarmerie in Romania and Moldova, explores the creative agency of a ‘home-grown’ religious movement, Inochentism. I argue here that the archives represent a important resource for understanding not only how religious groups were able to deploy various creative art and media, resisting and critiquing the totalitarian and authoritarian systems of the time, but also for revealing the deeper cultural and societal attitudes towards the religious materiality as reflected in the ideology worldview and archival practices of the security services.