Accepted Paper:

Whose house is this? Uncertainty, ownership and urban memory in Korça  


Diana Diaconu
George Zamfir
Gruia Badescu (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

The paper highlights how a house becomes the conflict arena for different political ideologies and ethnic relations. We explore how this house reveals the social tensions and anxieties present in post-socialist Albania, materialized through the fuzziness of ownership and fluidity of identities.

Paper long abstract:

The so-called "Romanian house" in the Albanian city of Korça is presented by the local authorities as one of the symbols of the city. However, on the ground, the house is a haven of uncertainty, mired both in its property status and the story of its beginnings. Its layers of confusion are immersed in Albania's transition from Hoxha socialism to current day capitalism. During the communist regime the house changed its status and legal owners by becoming State propriety. Nevertheless, after the fall of the communist regime, the house has become a seat of anxiety for its current dwellers, whose ownership status is lost between being an owner and a renter. The fight between domestic and public spaces can be viewed through the dwellers' will to keep it as a domestic house and the authorities' will to transform it in a public center and as a result of this encounter, half of the first floor is transformed into an exhibition gallery. Hence, the house is separated in two spaces, a domestic and public one. But still, by changing its identity and legal owners, the house is mired in fuzziness, which is also extended to the story of its beginnings. Shopkeepers who occupy the lower floor, passers by, and the house dwellers all tell different stories about the house, the ethnicity of the builder and owner and the history of the house shaping into a myriad of variants.

The paper explores the multiple layers of uncertainty by following the trajectory of the house in different spaces, political ideologies and ethnic relations.

Panel W032
La transformation des sociétés balkaniques: certitudes changeantes et incertitudes constantes ? (EN & FR)