Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Open Theology

Editor-in-Chief: Taliaferro, Charles

1 Issue per year

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Documentary Film and Magic in Communist Romania

Alexandra Coțofană
Published Online: 2017-05-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2017-0016


The current paper is concerned with the ways that delegitimized forms of spirituality in communist Romania found unexpected ways of circulating their knowledge. Because of state control, especially during the repressive cultural revolution of the 1970s, magic practiced by Romanian Orthodox believers (as opposed to magic done by practitioners in other faiths) was practiced underground and was not a desirable topic of engagement for public figures and scholars. Conducting research on the topic of ritual magic was difficult for social scientists working in state institutes, and could only be done in secret. The current article explores one aspect of the politics of the communist regime against magic. In the late 1960s to early 1970s, a Romanian ethnographer shot and produced a documentary on ritual magic using the state’s technical and social tools. I investigate how the methodological problems faced by Romanian social researchers illuminate their research on ritual magic as a space of resistance.

Keywords: Communism; Romania; Magic; Documentary Film; Ethnography


  • Almond, Mark. The Rise and Fall of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu, London : Chapmans, 1992.Google Scholar

  • Behr, Edward. Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite: The Rise and Fall of the Ceauşescus, Villard Books, 1991.Google Scholar

  • Bergdahl, Lovisa. Seeing Otherwise: Renegotiating Religion and Democracy as Questions for Education, Stockholm, Stockholm University, 2010.Google Scholar

  • Bernstein, Anya. Religious Bodies Politic: Rituals of Sovereignty in Buryat Buddhism, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013.Google Scholar

  • Bîrlea, Ovidiu. Metode de cercetare a folclorului, Bucharest: The State Publishing House for Literature and Art, 1968.Google Scholar

  • Bok, Sissela. Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.Google Scholar

  • Brădeanu, Adina. “Romanian Documentaries and the Communist Legacy”, Cinéaste, Vol. 32, No. 3, SUMMER 2007, 45-46.Google Scholar

  • Bubociu, Octavian, Dégh, Linda, Filipović Milenko S. and Gavazzi, Milovan. “Folklore and Ethnography in Rumania [and Comments and Reply]”, Current Anthropology, Vol. 7, No. 3 Jun., 1966, 295-314.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Buroway, Michael. Afterword to Uncertain Transition: Ethnographies of Change in the Postsocialist World, Oxford: Rowman&Littlefield Publishers, 1999.Google Scholar

  • Căliman, Călin. O istorie a filmului românesc (1897-2000). Bucharest: The Cultural Romanian Foundation Publishing House, 2000.Google Scholar

  • Cernat, Paul. În căutarea comunismului pierdut. Pitești: Editura Paralela 45, 2001.Google Scholar

  • Chirot, Daniel. “Social Change in Communist Romania,” Social Forces, Vol. 57, No. 2, Special Issue (Dec., 1978): 457-499.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Darrick Danta. “Ceauşescu’s Bucharest,” Geographical Review 83, no. 2 (1993): 170-82.Google Scholar

  • Deletant, Dennis. Romania Under Communist Rule. Center for Romanian Studies, 1999.Google Scholar

  • Deletant, Dennis, Ionescu Mihai. Romania and the Warsaw Pact: 1955-1989, Cold War International History Project. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2004.Google Scholar

  • Durandin, Catherine. Histoire de la nation roumaine, Bruxelles: Complexe, 1994.Google Scholar

  • Goody, Jack, “Religion and Ritual: The Definitional Problem”, The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Jun., 1961): 142-164.Google Scholar

  • Hedeșan, Otilia. “Doing fieldwork in Communist Romania” in Studying peoples in the people’s democracies. II: socialist era anthropology in southeast Europe. Halle studies in the anthropology of Eurasia, v. 17, Berlin, 2008.Google Scholar

  • Ionescu, Ghiță. Communism in Rumania, 1944-1962. Oxford University Press, 1964.Google Scholar

  • Jowitt, Kenneth, “The Romanian Communist Party and the World Socialist System: A Redefinition of Unity”, World Politics, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Oct., 1970): 38-60.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Jütte, Daniel. The Age of Secrecy. Jews, Christians, and the Economy of Secrets, 1400-1800. Yale University Press, 2015.Google Scholar

  • Kaplan, Robert D. In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond, Random House, 2016.Google Scholar

  • Knox, Zoe. Russian Society and the Orthodox Church Religion in Russia after communism, New York: BASEES/Routledge Curzon Series on Russian and East European Studies, 2005.Google Scholar

  • Kürti, László. “Homecoming: Affairs of Anthropologists in and of Eastern Europe”, Anthropology Today, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Jun., 1996): 11-15.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Lienhardt, Godfrey. Divinity and Experience: The Religion of the Dinka: The Religion of the Dinka, NY: Oxford University Press, 1961.Google Scholar

  • Linden, Carl A. Khrushchev and the Soviet Leadership 1957-1964. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1966.Google Scholar

  • Ledeneva, Alena. Russia’s Economy of Favors. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.Google Scholar

  • Mahmud, Lilith. The Brotherhood of Freemason Sisters: Gender, Secrecy, and Fraternity in Italian Masonic Lodges. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014.Google Scholar

  • Masco, Joseph, The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Nichols, Bill. “Documentary Reenactment and the Fantasmatic Subject”, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Autumn 2008): 72-89.Google Scholar

  • Pedersen, Morten Axel. Not Quite Shamans: Spirit Worlds and Political Lives in Northern Mongolia. Ithaka: Cornell University Press, 2011.Google Scholar

  • Pop, Doru. “The Wizards of the Violet Flame”. Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 13, issue 38 (Summer 2014): 155-171Google Scholar

  • Rosenstone, Robert A. and Constantin Pârvulescu. Post-Heroic Revolution Depicting the 1989 Events in the Romanian Historical Film of the Twenty-First Century, Blackwell Publishing Ltd: NJ, 2013.Google Scholar

  • Roth, Stephen J. “The Effect of Ethno-Nationalism on Citizens’ Rights in the Former Communist Countries” in Western Rights?: Post-communist Application, ed. Sajó, András. The Hague: Kluwer, 1996, 273-90.Google Scholar

  • Scînteia, anul XL, nr. 8812, 10 iunie 1971. Full translated text available at: http://thetarpit.org/posts/y03/05a-july-theses.htmlGoogle Scholar

  • Solomon, Alexandru. “What is Documentary Film?” MOVEAST 8: Contemporary Romanian Cinema. Budapest: Hungarian National Film Archive, 2002.Google Scholar

  • Tismăneanu, Vladimir. The Devil in History Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.Google Scholar

  • Verdery, Katherine. Secrets and Truths: Ethnography in the Archive of Romania’s Secret Police. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2014.Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2017-02-09

Accepted: 2017-04-18

Published Online: 2017-05-11

Published in Print: 2017-01-26

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 198–210, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2017-0016.

Export Citation

© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in