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Concrete Biographies: Communist and post-communist perceptions of Albania's mushroom-shaped bunkers

Cambridge Heritage Group Seminar
When Nov 01, 2018
from 01:00 PM to 02:00 PM
Where Seminar Room, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Contact Name
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Concrete Biographies: Communist and post-communist perceptions of Albania's mushroom-shaped bunkers

Emily Glass, PhD Candidate (University of Bristol)

Concrete Biographies

From the late 1960s communist Albania embarked upon a bunkerisation programme that was both ideologically tied to Enver Hoxha’s adoption of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and a defensive response to the country’s self-imposed isolation to all but China. The result was the installation of innumerable small personnel bunkers laid out in multiple rows and as individual positions across the whole country, with heavy concentrations around borders, towns, military bases and transport networks. The achievement of manufacturing, installing and maintaining these bunkers was a testament to how a country can utilise its population to create a collective megastructure that acted as a form of mental and physical walled barrier towards the outside world while encouraging an internal siege mentality.

Using the results of fieldwork, this talk will examine how mushroom-shaped bunkers in two southern border areas of Albania were perceived and engaged with during communism and discuss how this changed after the 1991 collapse. As these omnipresent objects have been situated partly under communism and partly within democracy, they comprise various narratives which contribute towards the formation of cultural biographies. Through this, it will be demonstrated how the mushroom-shaped bunker is an object that has become recontextualised and transmuted over time. Finally, the impact that destruction and tourism has had upon this particular form of communist heritage will also be explored to argue how the mushroom-shaped bunker has emerged as the unofficial icon of Albania.

Emily Glass is a PhD candidate at the University of Bristol where she is researching the perception and identity of mushroom-shaped bunkers in Albania.

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