Between Conflicting Systems

An Ordinary Tragedy in Now-Capitalist Albania

in Anthropological Journal of European Cultures
View More View Less
  • 1 Ohio University rosenm@ohio.edu
Restricted access

Abstract

‘Business as usual’ in contemporary Albania takes place between different and conflicting systems of meaning and value. Drawing from ethnographic material collected in Tirana, Albania, this article examines the complexities of social and economic life in a city where distinct moral economies routinely clash with the capitalist principle of profit. Starting from the ethnographic impulse to learn how two local booksellers made sense of the contradictory systems of meaning operating in their everyday lives, the analysis shows how a grinding of discordant value systems produced the more general paradox of an ‘ordinary tragedy’.

Contributor Notes

Matthew Rosen, Ohio University. E-mail: rosenm@ohio.edu

Anthropological Journal of European Cultures

(formerly: Anthropological Yearbook of European Cultures)

  • Abrahams, F. (2015), Modern Albania: From Dictatorship to Democracy in Europe (New York: New York University Press).

  • Abu-Lughod, L. (1991), ‘Writing Against Culture’, in R. Fox (ed.), Recapturing Anthropology (Santa Fe: SAR Press), 13762.

  • Aliaj, B., K. Lulo and G. Myftiu (2003), Tirana: The Challenge of Urban Development (Tirana: Cetis).

  • Archer, R. (2018), ‘The Moral Economy of Home Construction in Late Socialist Yugoslavia’, History and Anthropology 29, no. 2: 14162.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Berdahl, D., M. Bunzl and M. Lampland (eds) (2000), Altering States: Ethnographies of Transition in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press).

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Biehl, J. (2005), Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment (Berkeley: University of California Press).

  • Bodnár, J. and J. Böröcz. (1998), ‘Housing Advantages for the Better Connected? Institutional Segmentation, Settlement Type and Social Network Effects in Hungary's Late State-Socialist Housing Inequalities’, Social Forces 76, no. 4: 12751304.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Burawoy, M. and K. Verdery (eds) (1999), Uncertain Transition: Ethnographies of Change in the Postsocialist World (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Costello, C., J. Traficanti and M. Bogdani (2014), ‘Albania Rule of Law Assessment: Final Report’, http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PA00KHDW.pdf (accessed 27 July 2019).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Crapanzano, V. (1980), Tuhami: Portrait of a Moroccan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

  • Dalakoglou, D. (2017), The Road: An Ethnography of (Im)Mobility, Space, and Cross-Border Infrastructures in the Balkans (Manchester: Manchester University Press).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • De Waal, C. (2014), Albania: Portrait of a Country in Transition (London: I. B. Tauris).

  • Duclos, D. (2019), ‘When Ethnography Does Not Rhyme with Anonymity: Reflections on Name Disclosure, Self-Censorship and Storytelling’, Ethnography 20, no. 2: 17583.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Elbasani, A. (2017), ‘Judiciary as a Mechanism of State Capture: External Actors, Party Patronage and Informality’, Perspectives: Political Analyses and Commentary 3: 2630, https://ba.boell.org/sites/default/files/perspectives_-_09-2017_-_web.pdf (accessed 27 July 2019).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Elbasani, A. and A. Puto (2017), ‘Albanian-Style Laïcité: A Model for a Multi-Religious European Home?’, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies 19, no. 1: 5369.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Elsie, R. (1995), History of Albanian Literature (New York: Columbia University Press).

  • Fabian, J., I. C. Jarvie and P. Kloos (1971), ‘On Professional Ethics and Epistemological Foundations’, Current Anthropology 12, no. 2: 23032.

  • Fassin, D. (2009), ‘Moral Economies Revisited’, Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 64th Year (6): 123766.

  • Fassin, D. (2014), ‘True Life, Real Lives: Revisiting the Boundaries between Ethnography and Fiction’, American Ethnologist 41, no. 1: 4055.

  • Fassin, D., F. Le Marcis and T. Lethata (2008), ‘Life and Times of Magda A: Telling a Story of Violence in South Africa’, Current Anthropology 49, no. 2: 22546.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fehérváry, K. (2013), Politics in Color and Concrete: Socialist Materialities and the Middle Class in Hungary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fortun, K. (2001), Advocacy after Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

  • Ghodsee, K. (2011), Lost in Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life after Communism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press).

  • Harris, S. (2013), Communism on Tomorrow Street: Mass Housing and Everyday Life after Stalin (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Humphrey, C. (2002), The Unmaking of Soviet Life: Everyday Economies after Socialism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).

  • Jerolmack, C. and A. K. Murphy (2017), ‘The Ethical Dilemmas and Social Scientific Trade-Offs of Masking in Ethnography’, Sociological Methods and Research (accessed 27 July 2019).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jusufi, I. (2018), ‘Clientelism and Informality in Albania’, Eastern Journal of European Studies 9, no. 1: 13350.

  • Kajsiu, B. (2015), A Discourse Analysis of Corruption: Instituting Neoliberalism against Corruption in Albania, 1998–2005 (London: Routledge).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mandel, R. and C. Humphrey (eds) (2002), Markets and Moralities: Ethnographies of Postsocialism (New York: Berg).

  • Marx, K. and F. Engels (1998), The Communist Manifesto (London: Verso).

  • Mëhilli, E. (2017), From Stalin to Mao: Albania and the Socialist World (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).

  • Molnár, V. (2010), ‘In Search of the Ideal Socialist Home in Post-Stalinist Hungary: Prefabricated Mass Housing or Do-It-Yourself Family Home?’, Journal of Design History 23, no. 1: 6181.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Musaraj, S. (2011), ‘Tales from Albarado: The Materiality of Pyramid Schemes in Postsocialist Albania’, Cultural Anthropology 26, no. 1: 84110.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Musaraj, S. (2018), ‘Corruption, Right On! Hidden Cameras, Cynical Satire, and Banal Intimacies of Anti-Corruption’, Current Anthropology 59 (suppl. 18): S10516.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Musaraj, S. (forthcoming), The Pyramid Way: Money, Value, and Ponzi Finance in Postsocialist Albania (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nussbaum, M. (1990), Love's Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature (New York: Oxford University Press).

  • Palomera, J. and T. Vetta (2016), ‘Moral Economy: Rethinking a Radical Concept’, Anthropological Theory 16, no. 4: 41332.

  • Petryna, A. (2002), Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

  • Pipa, A. (1991), Contemporary Albanian Literature (New York: Columbia University Press).

  • Reyes, V. (2018), ‘Three Models of Transparency in Ethnographic Research: Naming Places, Naming People, and Sharing Data’, Ethnography 19, no. 2: 20426.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rogers, D. (2010), ‘Postsocialisms Unbound: Connections, Critiques, Comparisons’, Slavic Review 69, no. 1: 115.

  • Rosaldo, R. (1989), Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis (Boston: Beacon Press).

  • Rosen, M. (2019), ‘Reading Nearby: Literary Ethnography in a Postsocialist City’, Anthropology and Humanism 44, no. 1: 7087.

  • Scheper-Hughes, N. (1992), Death without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil (Berkeley: University of California Press).

  • Thompson, E. P. (1971), ‘The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century’, Past and Present, no. 50: 76136.

  • Thompson, E. P. (1991), Customs in Common (New York: New Press).

  • Tochka, N. (2016), Audible States: Socialist Politics and Popular Music in Albania (New York: Oxford University Press).

  • Trix, F. (1994), ‘The Resurfacing of Islam in Albania’, East European Quarterly 28, no. 4: 53349.

  • Tsenkova, S. (2009), Housing Policy Reforms in Postsocialist Europe: Lost in Transition (Heidelberg: Physica-Verlag). Verdery, K. (2003), The Vanishing Hectare: Property and Value in Postsocialist Transylvania (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Waterston, A. (2019), ‘Intimate Ethnography and the Anthropological Imagination’, American Ethnologist 46, no. 1: 719.

  • Waterston, A. and B. Rylko Bauer (2006), ‘Out of the Shadows of History and Memory: Personal Family Narratives in Ethnographies of Rediscovery’, American Ethnologist 33, no. 3: 397412.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • West, H. (2007), Ethnographic Sorcery (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

  • Williams, R. (1973), The Country and the City (New York: Oxford University Press).

  • Woodcock, S. (2016), Life Is War: Surviving Dictatorship in Communist Albania (Bristol: HammerOn Press).

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 135 121 8
Full Text Views 34 23 3
PDF Downloads 56 39 3