Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
James A. Kapalo
“Religion – Continuations and Disruptions”
The Hidden Galleries Digital Database: A new resource for researching the religious underground
University of Tartu, Estonia
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
Through the presentation of examples drawn from Hidden Galleries Digital Database, this paper explores photographic representations of the religious underground in Secret Police archives in Central and Eastern Europe. From the perspective of the study of religions, the archives of the secret police are different from other archives. Historically, state and official religious institutions have, through their archival practices, attempted to establish their own authority by archiving that which they deemed worthy of preserving in the aim determining how future generations would understand their past. The secret police archives, on the other hand have preserved that which states and churches judged as “unworthy.” Paradoxically, groups that most archives systematically excluded such as religious dissenters and troublesome rebels, have been systematically and laboriously documented by the secret police. In their attempts to incriminate and delete certain religious groups, they preserved valuable visual and material traces of otherwise invisible clandestine or underground communities. The Secret Police archives in Romania and the Republic of Moldova constitute a hidden repository of confiscated religious materials and photographs, which often sit alongside photographic images created by the secret police in the course of their investigations into criminal religious activities. These archives, therefore, represent an important resource for understanding both how religious communities chose to represent themselves and how the totalitarian system created images of religious others in order to incriminate and produce anti-religious propaganda. The examples presented in this paper illustrate the dual character of the photographic record in the archives as both religious justification and incrimination.
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme No. 677355.