Book: Contesting Authority
Chapter: “And the Archangel Michael looked just like me!”: Visual Media and the Re-presentation of Divinity in Moldovan Radical Religion
This paper explores the power of the visual to contest and subvert dominant religious beliefs and doctrines. Through an exploration of Inochentism and Archangelism, ‘home-grown’ religious movements in twentieth and twenty first century Moldova, I trace the power of visual media, when combined with folk narratives, prophesy and visionary literature, to contest state and church authority, embody the sacred and transform belief. The two movements discussed, driven underground by nationalist and communist regimes in Romania and Soviet Moldova, deployed visual media in the form of vernacular icons, photographs and photomontages, as powerful tools for critique and as a means of mobilizing belief during periods of intense persecution by the state. Based on a series of interviews with members of these movements between 2011 and 2014, on secret police archival sources and on Soviet propaganda publications, I examine how, under the pressure of state atheist ideology and political oppression, relations between divine and human, this world and the next, and the material and immaterial were re-imagined, re-presented and embodied by Moldovan village people.