By now I’m sure that most of you have come across various mental maps that have been appearing all over the internet; whether they are maps such as “The US according to the Brits” or “Europe according to France”, these maps have become really popular. For those that have no idea what I’m talking about check out a few here. Recently I was having a conversation with a friend about various stereotypes, as I had begun asking why certain places in Albania are known for certain things. She then began giving me long explanations for why people from Gjirokaster are known as stingy, or why people from Çameria are known as untrustworthy. As we talked I began to take notes, including writing down idioms and expressions that my friend has heard over the years about various Albanian cities. Later I began to think more about the maps I’ve seen recently and what they reveal about stereotypes and how people perceive space and place. So, I have now begun a new project that I hope to continue for the remainder of my time here. I printed out geopolitical maps of Albania with major cities and regions, and I’m going to have individuals mark the maps and tell me about various stereotypes and stories they know about places. This will be a snowball project, targeting those individuals who want to participate. This is the only requirement. Tomorrow I’m actually headed to Southern Albania for a couple of days so I can gather some samples there before heading back to Tirana.
Now I’m not doing this project just to create a map that I can then post to Buzzfeed or a similar website though I’m sure that would be funny. As I expressed with my friend that day, I believe that the ideas, stereotypes, and prejudices that people hold about others are rooted in various historical and social processes. I think an exercise such as this can shed light on the ways in which certain ideas have manifested and continually manifest in our everyday lives. For example, I believe that the stereotype of Çameria as being untrustworthy is very much linked to the history of the Çams, who were once in Greece, and are now a part of Albania but always seen as in-between. I am not trying to begin a debate here about Çamerian Identity, but rather draw attention to the ways in which these types of ideas about people are formed. Furthermore, as I am trying to understand the ways in which people construct others, as this has relevancy for questions about prejudice, racism, and xenophobia among other things.
Anyone have any ideas/thoughts/resources to contribute?