Our Dead Among Us: Inscription of Public Space through Death Notifications in Tirana
Arba Bekteshi (University of Sussex)
Paper short abstract:
In this photo essay, I present the changing ritualistic display of public death notifications on city walls in Tirana, Albania. The spread of death notifications is a relatively recent phenomenon, specifically belonging to approximately the last ten years, due to Tirana's increasing population.
Paper long abstract:
In Tirana, death notifications state the name and age of the dead, display a good personal picture or professional drawing of the dead, as well as specify the place and time of the burial and the mourning period. Here, I trace the abovementioned spread from what used to be one main public space where death notifications were displayed, a framed wall space in Rruga e Dibrës, to many larger ones, during the last ten years or so. I focus on how the citizens' gesture of sticking death notifications on walls, electrical power street cabins and lampposts create new mortuary practices spatially organizing the memorialization of loved ones. I show how the abovementioned public spaces used for the display of death notifications are appropriated by collective representations of death, and consequently used as new socially designated places of collective commemoration. Furthermore, death notifications spread freely throughout the city are accorded attributes that transform them from commemorative gestures to spatially embedded experiences of death informed by vague notions of democratic freedom and expression (Low & Lawrence-Zúñiga 2004). I make a case for these public displays of mourning and death as delimitative of new public spaces and mourning rituals as social communication strategies (Danforth 2004).