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Academic Freedom. The Global Challenge
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Landscapes of Disease - Malaria in Modern Greece
Katerina Gardikas

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Bones of Contention
The living archive of Vasil Levski and the making of Bulgaria's national hero

Maria N. Todorova is a Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

This book is about documenting and analyzing the living archive around the figure of Vasil Levski (1837–1873), arguably the major and only uncontested hero of the Bulgarian national pantheon. The processes described, although with a chronological depth of almost two centuries, are still very much in the making, and the living archive expands not only in size but constantly adding surprising new forms. The monograph is a historical study, taking as its narrative focus the life, death and posthumous fate of Levski. By exploring the vicissitudes of his heroicization, glorification, appropriations, reinterpretation, commemoration and, finally, canonization, it seeks to engage in several broad theoretical debates, and provide the basis for subsequent regional comparative research. The analysis of Levski's consecutive and simultaneous appropriations by different social platforms, political parties, secular and religious institutions, ideologies, professional groups, and individuals, demonstrates how boundaries within the framework of the nation are negotiated around accepted national symbols.


Introduction; Part I. Bones of Contention or Professionals, Dilettantes, and Who Owns History 1. A “social drama” at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences 2. From breach to crisis 3. No redress, or where are Levski’s bones? 4. A socialist public sphere? 5. “Professionals” and “dilettantes” 6. Recognizing the schism or what is worse: bad professionals or good nationalists? Part II. The Apostle of Freedom or What Makes a Hero? 1. What is a hero and are heroes born? 2. The “making” of Vasil Levski 3. A banner for all causes: appropriating the hero 4. Contesting the hero 5. The literary and visual hypostases of the hero 6. From hero for all to dissident and back Part III. The National Hero as Secular Saint: The Canonization of Levski 1. The split or how a bicephalous organism functions 2. The canonization and its implications 3. Levski and the Bulgarian church: memory and narration 4. The orchestration of a grass-roots cultus 5. Commemoration, ritual and the sacred 6. Heroes and saints: the dialectics of reincarnation Conclusion Appendices Appendix I. The scholarly consensus on the 1956 excavations until the 1980s in the writings of Stamen Mikhailov. A critical analysis; Appendix II. The discussion at the Academy of Sciences : 10, 12 and 27 February 1986; Appendix III. Letter of 20 Bulgarian historians to Todor Zhivkov, 4 May 1987; Appendix IV. Poems written by citizens on the topic of Levski’s grave; Appendix V. Letter of Radka Poptomova, April 1987 ; Appendix VI. Letter of medieval section at AI, June 2001 ; Appendix VII. The double-headed hierarchy of the Bulgarian Orthodox church (1996-2004); Appendix VIII. School questionnaires on Levski

The No.2 issue of the 36th volume of Southeastern Europe dedicated 22 pages to a debate about Bones of Contention. The two comments by Ivaylo Ditchev and Stefan Troebst were responded by the author.

"This book is many things, but foremost it is a detailed analysis of the social and political processes that crafted a nineteenth-century Bulgarian revolutionary, Vasil Levski, into the most admired and revered hero in Bulgaria. Although the current representation of his revolutionary actions would suggest that this was inevitable, Maria Todorova shows that this was not necessarily the case. His ascendancy to the pinnacle of Bulgaria’s heroic pantheon was a result of continual contestation and debate from his death in 1873 through the 1920s. As his preeminence was consolidated, different groups with opposing political philosophies all tapped into his celebrity to advance their platforms, further enhancing his aura and elevating him toward saintly status.

This is an impressive piece of scholarship demonstrating meticulous historical research with both primary and secondary sources combined with engaging personal expositions based on the author’s close connection to some of the major protagonists and events. It is an important contribution to scholarship in both method and content.

It is also an important contribution to the literature on nationalism generally, particularly the growing interest in varieties of nationalisms. The book thus speaks to multiple disciplines, including history, political science, sociology, and anthropology. It is also augmented by a lovely collection of color prints that further enhance its readability. The result is an outstanding book that combines the best of the historian’s craft with novel innovations" - Slavic Review

"A complex, clever, and compelling book. It is an excellent guide to a major nineteenth-century revolutionary figure, and it provides a fascinating study in the political exploitation and manipulation of legend and myth." - Journal of Modern History

"An enjoyable but daunting volume; Maria Todorova entertains with straightforward prose while she tackles a subject that is in its breadth and depth unusually complex.

Todorova's book arrives at a promising moment in the evolution of nationalism studies. The author engages several theoretical debates, and in doing so revives the quest for impartiality in academic research." - American Historical Review

622 pages + 16 with color photos
ISBN 978-963-9776-24-1 cloth $55.00/ €44.95 / £40.00

2011: abridged paperback version of the cloth edition
390 pages + 16 with color photos
ISBN 978-615-5053-09-2 paperback $27.95/ €25.95 / £24.99