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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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ARTICLE
Year : 2004  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 19-50

Post-socialist Property Rights and Wrongs in Albania: An Ethnography of Agrarian Change


Newnham College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 9DF, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Clarissa de Waal
Newnham College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 9DF
United Kingdom
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In Communist Albania privately owned land was eliminated. Decollectivisation procedures began in 1991. This ethnography focuses on post-socialist property relations with respect to ex-cooperative land, forest and partially distributed state farm land. In northern Albania ex-cooperative land was privatised according to customary law rather than state decree. This was chiefly for practical reasons, but symbolic reasons played a role, too. The procedure was widely perceived as just; agreed by customary rules and tolerated by the state. The forest remained state owned though customary usage rights in the forest were reasserted by vil­lagers. State indifference to large-scale illegal felling has resulted in massive forest destruction. The status of ex-state farm land is anomalous, providing a fer­tile arena for electioneering politicians wooing squatters and painful insecurity for large numbers of highland village migrants. Post-socialist property relations in Albania have been characterised by government laissez-faire alternating with interventionism and corrupt practices. The population has had to resort to 'do-it­yourself' tactics. The oft-repeated cry: 'There is no state, there is no law'-ska shtet, ska ligj-encapsulates the view from the ground.


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