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Heritage and national identity in post-socialist Albania

Fermor, David Sebastian (2018) Heritage and national identity in post-socialist Albania. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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In this thesis I critically evaluate the concept of the “democratisation of memory” (Atkinson 2008) and to analyse the relationship between the “democratisation of memory” and the (re)construction of national identity through an analysis of changing practices of the (re)construction and consumption of three selected “myths” of Albanian national identity at heritage sites and museums. The three selected myths are; the myth of Illyrian-Albanian continuity, which is the origin myth of the Albanian nation; the myth of the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg; and myth and memory of the Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha and of state-socialism. I will argue throughout this thesis that the particular “democratisation of memory” described by Atkinson (2008) is just one type or pattern of that phenomenon, and that different types or patterns of the “democratisation of memory” can occur in different contexts and in relation to different narratives, myths and memories. I will also argue that the relationship between the “democratisation of memory” and the (re)construction of national identity observed and analysed in Albania is quite different to that which Atkinson’s (2008) writings suggest. While Atkinson (2008) dwells on the way in which the “democratisation of memory” can allow “traditional” and “official” narratives to be challenged and undermined my research reveals that, in the context of post-socialist Albania, some “traditional” and “official” narratives of Albanian national identity – the myth of Illyrian-Albanian continuity and the myth of Skanderbeg - have actually been bolstered by the “democratisation of memory” as they are represented and consumed in more ways and by more individuals than before and are thereby more deeply embedded in everyday life. At the same time, though, my research shows that negative “official” post-socialist era representations of state-socialism have been challenged and undermined through the “democratisation of memory”. I therefor offer an expanded notion of the “democratisation of memory” based upon the post-socialist and Albanian contexts.

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