Conference: Urban Identity, Power and Space: The Case of Trans-European Corridors, 27.-31.8. 2007, Tirana

The programmes for the reconstruction of post-Communist Europe have been compared to the Marshall Plan implemented after WWII. These programmes, however, are having a significant impact not only on post-Communist countries but also on the rest of Europe and on other areas worldwide. These programmes aim at fostering peace, democracy, respect of human rights and economic prosperity, through a shared strategy of stability and cooperation among the involved countries. To this extent, the construction of the so-called Trans-European Corridors – also known as Multimodal Transport Network – seems to be playing a central role in such a strategy, but it has raised controversial issues at the local level.

The ‘Trans-European Corridors’ aim at making exchange of goods, people, oil and other energy supplies easier between the EU, the East and South-East European states and other areas of the world. They also aim at improving stability in historically troubled regions of Europe.

The conference will address the changes that are occurring throughout Europe in relation to the construction of the Corridors and their impact on global politics. In particular, it will focus on urban change, old and new identities and the methodological issues raised by carrying out research in this new geo-political situation.

The conference will be structured around three main Sessions: 1) Corridors of Power; 2) History and Memories; 3) Anthropology, Research and Local Spaces, and a Session 4 aimed at postgraduates’ Poster Presentations. The Sessions will follow a sequential order, focusing on specific aspects of the conference’s overall theme, with the aim of stimulating discussion among participants. CUA encourages interdisciplinarity and the participation of research students.

Session 1. Corridors of Power – Convenor: Dr Italo Pardo, University of Kent, UK.

E-mail address: i.pardo@kent.ac.uk

The progressive enlargement of the European Union and the subsequent ‘restructuring’ has led to a redefinition of identities and boundaries, including, political, economic and symbolic boundaries. Such ongoing process of redefinition poses disciplinary challenges and the question of how to link academic research to responsible and legitimate policy.

The construction of the Trans-European Corridors has brought to a head critical aspects of this problematic. While the dominant political rhetoric has portrayed the Corridors as an opportunity for economic development and integration, they and their ramifications have been either hailed or vilified at grassroots level, often with equally strong feelings. Environmental and cultural concerns have been voiced. Economic development and sometimes conflict have been stimulated, particularly by the growing participation of the private sector in urban affairs. Legal problems remain unsolved in highly significant fields, such as the regulation of international business deals, citizenship rights and cultural conflict. Such complexity has raised both fundamental issues of legitimacy at the various levels of the decision-making process and significant questions on how this process is experienced at the local level, particularly in urban areas; on how it is affecting urban change and expansion; on what impact the internal and international demographic movement, particularly, though not only from outside the European Union, is having on urban life and identity; on the attendant competition; on whether the new social, economic and spatial situation is contributing to entrenching or to solving existing problems and on whether new forms of inequality and exclusion or new opportunities and forms of integration are instead taking shape. The mixture of graded timidity and political determinism with which the ruling élite in various countries have addressed this problematic has visibly compounded on their difficult relationship with citizenship.

An anthropological approach based on a contested understanding of the empirical situation at the local level illuminates key methodological and theoretical issues with specific reference to relations of power among different States and between governing élite groups (national and international) and the rest of society.

Session 2. History and Memories: Roads of Power-Roads of Exchange and how we came to remember them – Convenors: Gerda Dalipaj and Armanda Hysa, Albania Academy of Sciences. E-mail addresses: ethno_studies@yahoo.com; armanda_hysa@yahoo.com

The development of huge communication networks has been historically linked with the expansion of empires. Communication through roads has been central to economic, political and cultural unification, as well as to military domination. Over time, these roads have affected and have been affected by the changes in economic and political relations. However, although initially built to serve military purposes for the acquisition of new areas and the control of those already conquered, they turned out to be roads of exchange, linking these areas to each-other and to the centre, while reshaping existing borders. These roads became the source of livelihood for many communities, also generating a new sense of belonging. People who lived near them, or made use of them, transformed their space while, in turn, being transformed by it. These roads encouraged new trades, movement of population, the creation of new urban settings and the reconfiguration of existing ones. The changes that they brought about were also reflected in people’s lifestyles, especially as people adjusted to the new circumstances either through resistance or through cultural, economic and political adaptation.

The Trans-European Corridors, which are now being built along ancient itineraries, are presented as corridors of power and to power. The history of the old itineraries is being used to stress a past identity and a re-discovered belonging, or to legitimise the new politics of the involved states in opposition to those who stress the original military purposes ignoring the impact they had on economic development and cultural exchange.

This session addresses historical, social and political issues. It asks, who built the old roads of communication and why? What were their itineraries? What were their primary purposes and how have they changed over time? How did they affect people’s life and sense of belonging through new trading centres, movement of population, new urban settings and the changes they brought to existing ones, and the reshaping of borders? The session also addresses the ways in which history and social memory are politically used, and the extent to which our understanding of ‘roads of power’ affects our scientific approach to the study of history, culture and society.

Session 3. Anthropology, research and local spaces: Spatial connections and representations – Convenor: Dr Manos Spyridakis, University of the Peloponnese, Greece.

E-mail address: maspy@otenet.gr

Social anthropology has been historically founded on the primacy of participant observation, which has undeniably shaped the epistemological ‘autonomy’ of the discipline.

Participant observation takes place in a specific geographic space, the field. Space has traditionally been seen as portioned, as divided up into localities, places, regions. An isomorphism was assumed between culture/society and place. Cultures had their own places, and the differences between place-based cultures were believed to be internally generated and preconstituted. This created a picture of identification of space with the culture that it ‘included’ and vice-versa. ‘Territorialized’ data gave a sense of ‘real’ world and a certainty that what one needed to know about the field could be found in a limited space. Therefore, the field as a limited space predetermined the information and its interpretation.

Many anthropologists see this notion of ‘enclosed’, ‘isolated’ field as obsolete. Today, places are seen to function more as palimpsests within which the game of identity, multiplicity and relations are in an incessant process of embeddedness and recreation in social, economic and political terms. Therefore, the anthropological field as a space through which the social action exists constitutes a means for bringing about the variety of practices and not their ending, because social action is also affected by processes that take place outside the anthropological field.

This session intends to challenge fixed views about space through anthropological work in urban and other contexts, keeping in mind that space as such is not a neutral entity; it is, instead, an interactive entity involving social practices, which in turn affect the notion of field and of anthropological practice and theory. The challenge is to see place and space in a way which is not defined in terms of exclusivity, of contraposition between an inside and an outside and which is independent of false notions of internally-generated authenticity.

This session proposes three stimuli for discussion: Space is a product of interrelations since it is made out of interactions. Space entails multiplicity and plurality. Therefore, it is a constantly open system of actions; it is always being made, never finished.

Session 4. ‘Poster Presentation’ – Convenors: Albert P. Nikolla – Univ. “Our Lady of Good Council”. Tirana. Albania. E-mail: a.nikolla@unizkm.edu.al; Nebi Bardoshi –– Albania Academy of Sciences. E-mail: nedeba@yahoo.com

The main aim of this Session is to offer young researchers from Albania, the Balkan Region and beyond an opportunity to present their work to a broader audience, and to encourage contacts among junior younger scholars and between them and the International Scientific Community.

Paper proposals should be submitted both to the Session’s and the Conference’s Convenors by 31 January 2007. Proposals should include the paper title, an abstract of 250 words, the author’s name, institution, address and a brief biography. Please indicate if you need technical equipment for your paper presentation. The working language of the Conference will be English. Paper proposals from scholars from related disciplines are encouraged. Accepted papers will be notified by the end of February.

Registration Fee: The Conference registration fee will be 20 Euros.

There will be no registration fee for postgraduate Poster Presentations.

Output: A selection of revised papers will be published in an edited volume and in academic Journals.

Conference Committee:

Giuliana B. Prato – Co-Chair, Commission on Urban Anthropology – E-mail: g.b.prato@kent.ac.uk

Italo Pardo – University of Kent (UK) – E-mail: i.pardo@kent.ac.uk

Gerda Dalipaj – Institute of Folk Culture (Albania Academy of Sciences)

E-mail: ethno_studies@yahoo.com

Armanda Hysa – Institute of Folk Culture (Albania Academy of Sciences)

E-mail: armanda_hysa@yahoo.com

Albert Nikolla – University Zoja e Këshillit të Mirë (Tirana) – E-mail: a.nikolla@unizkm.edu.al

Manos Spyridakis – University of the Peloponnesus (Greece) – E-mail: maspy@otenet.gr

Nebi Bardoshi – Institute of Folk Culture (Albania Academy of Sciences) E-mail: nedeba@yahoo.com

Rafaela Marteta – Conference Executive Secretary – E-mail: rafaelamarteta@yahoo.it

More information on the Conference Programme can be obtained from Dr Giuliana B. Prato, Co-Chair of the Commission on Urban Anthropology.

Information on Travel and Accommodation can be obtained from Mrs Rafaela Marteta, Conference Executive Secretary.

More information on Corridors, including maps, can be found at:
http://magnetbahnforum.de/index.phd?id=364,0,0,1,0,0

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