Spectacular Promises: The Politics of Art and Memory in Postsocialist Albania




This paper addresses the prominence of discourses and related practices on the social relevance of art in Albania, twenty-five years after the demise of one of the most repressive state socialist regimes in Eastern Europe, a regime which employed art as an important tool of ideological propaganda. Contemporary discourses on the social relevance of art have increased in prominence after 2013, when Edi Rama – an artist by training – was elected as Albania’s Prime Minister, marking a decisive shift in art’s relationship to politics and the Albanian state. PM Rama has repeatedly emphasized that art has the potential to “modernize” Albanian society, increase economic revenue, and even haste Albania’s process of European Union integration. His government has also reappropriated socialist-era architecture, elite examples of which have been transformed into sites simultaneously dedicated to artistic production and the commemoration of socialism. Referring to recent instances of government-sponsored institutions and events in which the visual arts and/or the socialist past have been central, the author posits that the current Albanian government is using them as spectacular platforms from where to communicate messages of progress and Europeanization all the while monopolizing the field of cultural production and its commodity potential.  Furthermore, it is argued that these sites are used to create a spectacle of Albanian history and nostalgia, mediated by the ostensibly “modernizing” potential of contemporary art. Lastly, the paper also argues that these “spectacles” reflect some familiar legacies of socialist-era techniques of rule, namely the merging of intellectual and political work to the proclaimed end of advancing Albanian society.


Author: Sofia Kalo, UMass Amherst Anthropology PhD (Independent Scholar)

Discussant: Discussant: Evgenia Olimpieva, PhD Student in Political Science (UChicago)


February 16, 2018

12:00pm-1:20pm in Foster Hall, Room 103

University of Chicago


Light refreshments will be served. You are welcome to bring your lunch.


The paper is available on our website under the ‘Papers’ tab.  Password: reeca18sk

For more information, visit our website: https://voices.uchicago.edu/reeca/


Please contact me (christymonet@uchicago.edu) if you have any questions about this workshop or if you believe you may need assistance.


REECA workshop is an interdisciplinary scholarly forum where graduate students and faculty can explore different perspectives on area studies as they pertain to these deeply interconnected regions of the world. We invite topics of discussion from a wide range of disciplines, including but not limited to Slavic studies, political science, social thought, history, intellectual history, comparative literature, cinema studies, sociology, philosophy, divinity studies, economics, anthropology, public policy, comparative human development, and legal studies.




Friday, February 23

Я Сама, Фотка Себя: The Selfie as Domestic Politics and Practice in Russia

Zosha Winegar-Schultz, PhD Student in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature (University of Minnesota)



Friday, March 9

“Protesting Destruction: Chapaevsk and The Rise of Provincial Green Politics in Late Soviet Russia”

Alexander Herbert, PhD Candidate in History (University of Chicago)