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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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Chapter 2: Boundary Mapping and Territorialization of Identity


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Boundary Mapping and Territorialization of Identity

Nationalism is both a process of border maintenance and creation. Hence, it is a process of definition.

— CONVERSI 1995: 76

There are no boundary problems, there are only national problems.

— JACQUES ANCEL, Geography of Boundaries

In this chapter I engage the main scholarly debates in the field before developing my own theoretical stance. My argument discusses the processes of identity territorialization and national versus state map dynamics, whether compatible or incompatible, in order to understand the virtual and material dimensions of such maps and the impact they have on perception. The implications are not only theoretical but also of significant practical importance, given the myriad of boundary changes from early 1990s to the present day, motivated by both internal and external factors.

This chapter first delineates the literature and engages in the debates around how nationalist schools perceive the national borders. Second, it develops my theoretical framework, which explains such shifts in virtual borders. Third, it discusses the two overlapping maps of the Albanian nations. It then proceeds to elaborate the external constraints, while mapping virtual borders. Finally it provides a discussion of domestic elite clashes and the (re)drawing of national maps. ← 33 | 34 →

2.1 Existing Theories of Nationalism and How They Explain Borders

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