An anthropology of the road

Dalakoglou, Dimitris (2009) An anthropology of the road. Doctoral thesis (PhD), UCL.

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My ethnography begins providing its bibliographical, historical and geographic frameworks along the methodological issues in Chapter I. There, I outline the most explicit phenomena of postsocialism in Gjirokastër city, the introduction of private vehicles and private immobile property and their relationship with the radical transformations of the urban topography. This city today gradually centralises the road infrastructure, reflecting and facilitating the respective postsocialist social centralisation of spatial mobility and the increasing impact of the cross-border network on the social life of the city. The thesis continues in Chapter II with the history of motor-roads in Albania, with particular focus on the relationship between highways and modernisation during socialism and the paradox relationship between society and these infrastructures. During socialism Albanians had to build roads, but they were not able to use them, a process that paved in fact the way for the postsocialist social perceptions of roads and automobility. The main ethnographic and synchronic part begins in Chapter III and continues in Chapters IV and V where I study how the particular cross-border road network is perceived in postsocialist Gjirokastër, while I discuss its social agency after 1990. In Chapter III I focus on the contemporary road mythology in the city and I discuss it in reference other motifs of road mythology that are available in the bibliography. Chapters IV and V are the most important for the argument of the thesis as I emphasise the two most comprehensive road myths of the contemporary socio-cultural condition in Albania and I talk about their relationship with the actual materiality of that infrastructure in reference to the material dimensions of globalisation and transnationalism. In Chapter IV I present the politico-economic asymmetries of postsocialist capitalism in Albania as they are formed dialectically in the material and social constructions of Kakavije-Gjirokastër. In Chapter V, I continue with the dialectical scheme focusing on the social and material articulations of this transnationalism and fluidity from below, with focus on the ontological and material extension of the road: the houses built by migrants. There I show how the super-fluid and asymmetrical global relationships of the postsocialist transition are being familiarised and to a certain degree absorbed within the intimate material entity of the house, via the same road which incorporates and facilitates the international dependency of the society to the migratory process. The last chapter (VI) presents my conclusions emphasising the relationship between anthropology and roads, locating the current ethnography on the wider theoretical discussions on automobility infrastructures, space, time and scale.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology
Depositing User: Dimitris Dalakoglou
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2012 16:31
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2018 14:18
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