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The Making and Unmaking of the Synagogue in Birzula: Materiality, Textuality and Agency in the Early 1920's Soviet Union (2020-2021)


Publication: 10.58367/NECY.PM.H.2022.2
Field of study: Religious Studies

This paper explores the relationship between religious materiality and textuality in the Soviet archives as reflected in the case of the 1923 closure of a Synagogue in Birzula, a town located in the northern part of the Odessa district (oblast) in Ukraine. This study combines the approach of the Foucauldian ‘Soviet subjectivity’ school with the methodological framework of new materialism in order to identify and analyze the traces of the agential power of the Synagogue of Birzula. In their confrontation over the status of the synagogues, religious actors, Soviet activists, state and party officials produced numerous documents in which they spoke about themselves and about the synagogue. The case of the Synagogue of Birzula encapsulates the wider confrontation over the role and status of religion in Soviet society. This paper is about how to read the textual to discover the agential power of the material.

Keywords: Soviet antireligious policy, Synagogue, Material Religion, New Materialism, Soviet Subjectivity School, Soviet Archives

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