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Florentina Badalanova Geller

The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland - (FIAS Program)
Intangible Scriptures: Between Orality and Literacy
01 September 2022 -
30 June 2023
Social anthropology and ethnology

Florentina Badalanova Geller graduated in Slavonic Philology at Sofia University and completed her PhD at Moscow State University in 1984. She was habilitated in 1993 in the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and rose to the rank of Associate Professor at Sofia University before moving to the University of London in 1994 as British Council Lector.  She remained on the teaching staff at University College London until 2004, after which she became Honorary Research Associate.  She holds a permanent position as Senior Researcher at the Royal Anthropological Institute, London. In the period 2010-2018, she was on secondment to the Freie Universität Berlin (Geschichte- und Kulturwissenschaften) as Professor in the Topoi Excellence Cluster.  Since 2007, she has also been Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin. Her work has focused on Slavonic parabiblical heritage (including apocryphal literature, oral tradition and iconography) and anthropology of religion. She is particularly interested in the interaction between orality and literacy. Her most recent projects are related to Judaeo–Christian apocryphal writings, ethnohermeneutics of Abrahamic religions (including vernacular renditions of the Bible and the Quran) and transmission of knowledge in the Byzantine Commonwealth (with special emphasis on Church Slavonic).

In September 2022, she joined the Paris IAS as part of the French Institutes for advanced Study fellowship program - FIAS  - co-funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 945408. Her fellowship also benefits from the support of the RFIEA+ LABEX, with a national funding (Grant ANR-11-LABX-0027-01).

Research interests

Slavonic parabiblical traditions; orality and literacy; ethnohermeneutics of Abrahamic religions; the Folk Bible and Folk Quran; transmission of knowledge.

Intangible Scriptures: Between Orality and Literacy

The project explores foundational discourses on ethnic, national and confessional identities among Christian and Muslim communities (including adherents of Alevism and Sufism) within the socio-political landscape of South-Eastern Europe, with special emphasis on the Balkans.  The research is based on fieldwork data gathered both in the Soviet period (marked by aggressive totalitarianism and atheism) and in the post-Communist era (during which previous taboos were demolished but new ones began replacing them).  Events worldwide have led to a widespread emphasis on the differences and conflicts between Christianity and Islam.  This interdisciplinary research will demonstrate the opposite current at vernacular level and will elucidate strategies through which regional identities drew upon interrelated indigenous sources and resources, while mutually influencing their respective ethno-hermeneutics and collective memories. Vernacular hypostases of Abrahamic faiths have formed the ultimate framework for survival strategies of communities and for ritual modus operandi in preserving the social equilibrium between their members. Christian and Muslim oral heritage, ritual practices and vernacular iconography have had, as a frame of reference, not only the canonical corpora of the Bible and Quran – their respective Scriptures – but also a cluster of para-Biblical (apocryphal) and para-Quranic (Islamic exegetical and historiographical) sources.

Key publications

Florentina Badalanova Geller, Kniga Sushchaia v Ustakh: Fol’klornaia Bibliia Bessarabskikh i Tavricheskikh Bolgar [Holy Writ by Word of Mouth: the Folk Bible of the Bulgarian Diaspora in Bessarabia and Taurida]. Moscow: The Dmitriĭ Pozharskiĭ University Publishing House, 2017, 864 pages, 183 illustrations.   Joint publication of TOPOI Excellent Cluster (Berlin) and the Institute of Slavonic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences  ISBN 978-5-91244-174-5 [in Russian].

[Книга сущая в устах: Фольклорная Библия бессарабских и таврических болгар. Москва: Издательство Университета Дмитрия Пожарского, 2017. — 864  с.,183 ил.]

Florentina Badalanova Geller, “South Slavic.” In: Eric Ziolkowski (ed.), The Bible in Folklore Worldwide, Vol. 1: A Handbook of Biblical Reception in Jewish, European Christian, and Islamic Folklores. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017, pp. 253–306.

Florentina Badalanova Geller, Qur’ān in Vernacular: Folk Islam in the Balkans (Max Planck Preprint 357, Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin, 2008), 156 pp., ISSN 0948 9444.

Séminaire de Florentina Badalanova Geller, résidente 2022-2023 de l'IEA de Paris dans le cadre du cycle "Christianismes orientaux" de l'EPHE-PSL
29 Mar 2023 10:00 -
29 Mar 2023 12:00,
Paris :
Protevangelium Jacobi in Slavonic Tradition
Conference organized by Florentina Badalanova Geller, 2022-23 Paris IAS Fellow, and David Hamidovic, Lausanne University
16 Mar 2023 09:00 -
17 Mar 2023 17:00,
Paris :
Abraham’s Sacrifice in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions: Diachronic and Synchronic Perspectives

Contemporary period (1789-…)
Eastern Europe