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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Julie Hemment

Second Advisor

Jacqueline Urla

Third Advisor

Betsy Krause

Fourth Advisor

Jon Olsen

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology


This dissertation examines Albania’s fine art world after the end of state socialism in 1991. Drawing on two years of anthropological fieldwork (January –August 2006 and January 2010-August 2011) in Tirana, Albania’s capital city, this study investigates how the withdrawal of state support and oversight on the arts, the introduction of a market economy and efforts toward European belonging have been reflected, responded to and challenged in the discourses and practices of aesthetic production. Viewing art as a productive site of social meaning, where people perform and struggle over their identities, their pasts and futures, this dissertation explores the social imaginaries that art is employed to construct as Albania navigates European Union integration and tries to tame its socialist past.

Central to this study is analyzing the increasing prevalence of discourses on art’s social relevance, which have crystallized only in recent years. Whereas in 2006, most artists in this study were primarily concerned with producing art for art’s sake and its commodity potential, by 2010 and 2011, informants frequently declared that an important aim of their work was to produce art that could have some relevance for society. Such claims about art’s social relevance are being made in a context where local and transnational cultural flows and processes are complexly negotiated in light of both new and old knowledges. These negotiations are indicative of the cultural politics of the postsocialist transition, where art producers: react to socialist-era perceptions on art and the role of the artist; engage with and respond to the influence of international institutions and foundations; and incorporate the universal vernacular of contemporary art which they infuse with local histories, experiences and subjectivities.

Looking at artists are key agents of globalization, this dissertation also examines how Albanian artists negotiate the forces of the local and the global in their work in an effort to illuminate processes of cultural and economic globalization in postsocialism. Lastly, this study focuses on Albanian artists’ recent engagements with the [socialist] past. In their work, the symbols, forms, histories and memories of socialism had been gaining momentum, doing significant cultural work in current battles over remembering, documenting and erasing the past.