Contesting Places, Spaces, and Stories
Edited By Ahmet Atay, Yea-Wen Chen and Alberto González
4. Remembering Communism: The Site of Witness and Memory and the House of Leaves Museums in Albania
European University of Tirana
Remembering is a collective activity. The widely accepted definitions of memory as a shared understanding of the past (Halbwachs, 1925) and counter-memory as resistance against the official versions of historical continuity (Foucault, 1994) are largely articulated among contemporary memory scholarship. Places of memory are designated sites of memory that require public discussion, public approval and/or disapproval (Casey, 2004). Understanding public memory requires that memory and place, especially places of memory, be investigated in connection to each other and within the larger social context (Blair, Dickinson, & Ott, 2010). The fundamental changes that took place in former communist countries as they transitioned from a communist system to democracy and pluralism are historical events that call for specific attention to public memory. Such changes during transition periods require a reevaluation of what “it was” and what “it will be.” This reevaluation invites present interests, constitutes and requires group identities, attracts various affective investments, and requires material and symbolic support.
Scholarship regarding public memory and memory places, such as memorials, monuments, museums, and sites commemorating communism has been published in Europe as well as in the United States to some degree. Public debates about the communist past, especially related to the European Union project, have produced memory work throughout the former communist bloc. Museums and memorials commemorating victims of communist regimes are built and recognized as such throughout Eastern Europe. Scholarship about traumatic national pasts is significant as well,...
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