Florentina Badalanova Geller

The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
Paris IAS
Social Anthropology
10 months


Research interests: Slavonic parabiblical traditions; orality and literacy; ethnohermeneutics of Abrahamic religions; transmission of knowledge.

Research Project

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.


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).