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Contested Borders

Territorialization, National Identity and «Imagined Geographies» in Albania


Ilir Kalemaj

This book argues that power struggles between internal and diasporic elites play a central role in the development of political agendas that have the potential to shift national borders. The author uses Albania as the primary case study, examining how the understanding of the Albanian nation has taken on varying geographical borders over time and why different Albanian communities have often had differing perceptions of the borders of the nation.
On the basis of this case study, the author constructs a theoretical model that captures the dynamic of domestic versus international constraints on elite choices and analyses how this leads to the (re)construction of borders. The book explores the way in which competing elites manipulate national symbols to create the necessary environment for personal political gain, using both expansionist and contractionist versions of «virtual» borders that may or may not be congruent with internationally recognized borders.
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First of all I want to express my gratitude to Erin Jenne. Having her as my mentor and friend in this endeavor has been a great honor. Her openness, constructive criticism and continuous support have made this journey tremendously rewarding.

I also benefited a great deal from Matteo Fumagalli’s comments and feedback of various drafts of my PhD dissertation. I have learned a lot from exchanges with Sherrill Stroschein, Irina Papkova, Alex Astrov and others, as well as continuous support from the publishing house staff where special thanks go to Christabel Scaife. I also thank Emily Hill, Chelsi West and Adam Ehrlich for their help in copyediting different chapters of the final manuscript and Aleksander Brati for his technical assistance. I am also indebted to Kosta Giakoumis for giving me the chance to join the University of New York Tirana faculty team seven years ago and to my colleagues at the University who provide an excellent and inspiring academic community.

My family has been an enormous and constant support in this endeavor. I thank my parents and brother for their love and for believing in me, while apologizing for all the time that I have not been able to spend with them.

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