Belonging in Kurbet? A comparative analysis of constructing the “Albanian immigrant” in British and Greek media – Dimitra Gkitsa
After the collapse of socialist regime in Albania in 1990, thousands of Albanians were forced to find new homes in “migrant places”, or in kurbet, to use the Albanian word for migration. In Greece, Albanian immigrants constitute the largest migrant community (approximately 5% of the total population). More than thirty years after the first flow of Albanian migrants, Albanians are still victims of discrimination in Greece. Mass media has played its peculiar role in producing and re-producing racist narratives. Growing up as a child of Albanian migrants in Greece, I experienced first hand how those media narratives affect not only the construction of the “Albanian immigrant”, but also the ways in which Albanians themselves are forced to remember their past and to assess their identities in the public space.
Recently, there has been an increase of xenophobia directed to the Albanian immigrants in the United Kingdom, with many researchers arguing that this is a direct outcome of Brexit politics (Lea Ypi, 2022; Andi Hoxhaj, 2022). Interestingly, and although the context is different, the narrative followed by British media is very similar to that of Greek media (for instance, the socialist past approached in terms of backwardness and “uncivilised” identity, criminalisation, references to remittances that Albanians send to relatives in their home country).
Albanian migration is haunted by an accumulation of multiple traumas—surviving an authoritarian regime, witnessing the collapse of communism and the sudden shift to a neoliberal reality, feeling “unwelcomed” in other countries, desiring an EU citizenship. How is the sense of identity and belonging developed in migration? More crucially, what is the role of mass media in this process? This paper proposes to build a comparative analysis between the representation of the “Albanian immigrant” in Greek and the post-Brexit British media to examine the ways in which media narratives intertwine with issues related to identity, belonging, and collective memory in migrant communities.