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Contested Borders

Territorialization, National Identity and «Imagined Geographies» in Albania

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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 3: From Nation-Building to State Formation: How Virtual Mapping Intersected with Recognized Borders in the Albanian Imagination

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CHAPTER 3

From Nation-Building to State Formation: How Virtual Mapping Intersected with Recognized Borders in the Albanian Imagination

The crucial mechanism of border conservation is opposition. By definition, borders are oppositional and rely on otherness.

— CONVERSI 1995: 76

… all borders and territories, even those that appear “normal” or “natural”, are social constructions.

— DIENER and HAGEN 2010: 4

This chapter delineates a structure that will constitute the basis of the subsequent empirical chapters, which will test the hypotheses and closely follow the model introduced earlier. The evidence analysed here includes some of the earliest textbooks available, alongisde additional primary sources such as customary law, folklore and other ethnographic sources that provide evidence of how an expansionist map was woven by elites in the final decades of nineteenth century, continuing well into Albania’s post-sovereignty era, albeit only resurrected at certain critical junctures. The selection of the sources and their analysis was carried out with the specific aim of answering the following proxy questions that follow from the main empirical research questions: (1) how was the imagined geography of Albania constructed in the pre-independence period and what changes took place in the post-sovereignty period? (2) What role did the demarcation of borders play in reconfiguring the Albanian imagined community? (3) How did the historical background inform these modern ← 67 | 68 → developments and how was memory shaped to configure a certain map on both sides of the border? (4)...

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