Where to now?

Shkodër, Albania, 2021

As you step outside Shkodër’s city limits, you are just minutes away from the river, the lake, the sea, and the mountains. Outside the city centers in Albania, you can perceive the rural identity that still defines the country. Factories in the outskirts are abandoned ruins, and the family’s centrality in a society that is still strongly patriarchal can be sensed through the presence of women and children working in the fields. Small and large mosques stud every village, revealing a constant tension between the East and the West. While the Indo-European roots of the Albanian language are obvious to linguists, its connections to the Middle East are becoming increasingly clear in contemporary society due to the geopolitical influences that Russians, Chinese, Turks, and Arabs have always exerted and still exert on the Balkans.

Given that most Albanians live elsewhere, do younger generations have any choice? Is it still possible for them to draw on local epistemologies to restore the social fabric, or will they just have to submit to the corruption and organized crime that permeate politics and finance? The dialogue with the youth gives us a feel of how one of the populations that until a few years ago counted the greatest demographic growth in the region is now marked by a potential drive for innovation, interrupted by local and global dynamics that—like an earthquake—reduce its scenario.