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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 6: Reimagining Territorial Landscape and Mental Borders in the Post-Communist and Democratic Transition Era


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Reimagining Territorial Landscape and Mental Borders in the Post-Communist and Democratic Transition Era

– A nation? says Bloom. A nation is the same people living in the same place.

– By God, then, says Ned, laughing, if that’s so I’m a nation for I’m living in the same place for the past five years.

— JAMES JOYCE, Ulysses


This chapter traces the main socio-political discourse regarding the virtual shift of national borders in the post-communist years. Notwithstanding the globalization processes that seemed to erode national boundaries during this era, it also witnessed the reaffirmation of nation-state-based identities built on the congruence of national borders with the state unit. This concept has been redefined almost everywhere, in order to fit with the self-image of various national and ethnic groups (Kürti and Langman 1997: 3), as federations disintegrated and ethnic feelings were deliberately stirred up by elites to achieve political gain. In addition, foreign intervention has often altered the way that various minorities have tried to negotiate with their host countries in the new ideological vacuum that followed the early transition years. Scholars have recently been making attempts to understand the strategic use of emotion in the conflicts and interventions occurring in the Western Balkans over the last two decades. ← 183 | 184 → The logic of a “rational” Western intervention, using “material incentives (‘sticks and carrots’) to influence behavior”, has often stood in opposition to the emotion...

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