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Re-Membering in Transition: Trajectories of Violence, Structures of Denial, the Struggle for Meaning in Post-Communist Albania

Open Panel

Abstract

This paper analyzes the winter 2011 political crisis in Albania in terms of unresolved traumatic violences of the communist regime still haunting Albania and the intersecting violences of transitional processes. An analysis of historical memory and unresolved traumatic pasts is especially urgent in the wake of Opposition protests that left 3 dead and over 150 injured in January 2011. These events have been reported in the international press as escalations of the political power struggle grid-locking the country since the heavily contested 2009 elections. However, an analysis of events following the 2009 election through the current crisis reveals the power struggle to be rooted in deeply divisive memory contests; at a fundamental level, the fight at stake is over what to repress and what to remember of the troubled past still tangling the country. Twenty years after transition, one of most crucial tasks still facing Albanians remains extricating themselves from memory battles in which polarized factions fight to impose individual, self-referential, static (traumatic) memories and silence/obliterate counter-memories that challenge very narrow memory frameworks which are frozen in a past time. This paper will map the essential features of the field of memory and identity in which contemporary political processes are playing out and analyze the ongoing memory contests to show how the political power struggles choke-holding Albania are, at root, struggles over how to assign meaning to the past.