Accepted Paper:

High ideals & harsh conditions: making sense of ordinary tragedy in Tirana, Albania  

Author:

Matt Rosen (Ohio University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper concerns the material effects of the ethical attitude shared by two friends and business partners in Tirana, Albania, who brought a local bookstore-café out of bankruptcy in 2009, transformed it into a vibrant literary institution, only to be unceremoniously evicted in 2015.

Paper long abstract:

This paper concerns the material effects of the ethical attitude shared by two friends and business partners in Tirana, Albania, who brought a local bookstore-café out of bankruptcy in 2009, transformed it into a vibrant literary institution, only to be unceremoniously evicted in 2015.

There were two lines of problem leading to the eviction. The first concerned tensions between the moral economy of a Muslim café in a mostly secular city and the financial demands of the family who depended on the rent from the property to sustain themselves. The second problem had to do with the demands of the independent publishing company the two friends launched from the bookstore.

The publishing company also operated according to two principles that were in tension with the economic realities of running a busy café in one of Tirana's most expensive real estate markets. The first ideal was social. It was predicated on introducing contemporary Albanian readers to authors and ideas that were not available during communism. The second ideal, which one informant admitted to be the real driving force behind the project, was 'to keep in contact with [interesting] authors, ideas, and books'.

If their only problem was the landlord's insistence on a higher rent, I think the subjects of this account could have survived with the bookstore intact. The more intractable problem (if a passion for reading can be called a problem) was that it wasn't possible to satisfy the demands of managing the café without losing touch with their ideals.

Panel P027
Materialising the Imagination: How People Make Ideas Manifest