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Totalitarianism, Law and the Idea of Europe

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‘We want Albania like Europe’ (Ismail Kadare quoted in Adrian Brisku, Bittersweet Europe, 2013, p. 1). This paper argues that the biography contributes to our understanding of totalitarianism, law and the idea of Europe. By appreciating the historical, legal and political narratives that underpin contemporary efforts made by a post-dictatorial state to address its past can provide clues about the country's vision of the future. My paper treats a rare case study, namely that of Albania and addresses the crimes of the Enver Hoxha dictatorship (1945-1991). This regime was an excellent example of totalitarian power, if we define such rule as near complete control of public and private life. The biography I am concerned with is that of the Albanian dissident Musine Kokalari and her 1946 criminal trial. By understanding law as a language and imagery of transmission, I regard Musine Kokalari’s image from her trial as a legacy in terms of temporality and space. Legality possesses a temporal dimension, in the way that the law stands in relation to the past, the present, and the future. New understandings of law’s crucial role in joining our past, present, and future can be discovered with the recognition that several mnemonical regimes operate alongside each other. While it could be maintained that the crimes of the former regime have been trivialised, and that the main discourse about the past is in large part dictated by key political actors, I argue that Albanian historical, legal and political narratives remain unfinished. Referring to Walter Benjamin’s notion of ‘here-and-now in a flash’, we can ascertain what is remembered, forgiven, punished, or commemorated in an emerging Albanian discourse about its totalitarian history and future in Europe.

Event (Conference)

TitleTotalitarianism, Law and the Idea of Europe
LocationUniversity of Helsinki
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Degree of recognitionInternational event