Eleni Vomvyla

Voicing the stories of the excluded: Albanian families’ conceptualisations of heritage and engagements with the past

This research explores ways and practices in which Albanian families in Athens relate to their cultures, identities and pasts. It further seeks to investigate how these relationships shape and affect Albanian families’ interactions with the Greek past.

Drawing from history and heritage ‘from below’ traditions, this project aims to capture five Albanian families’ identity shaping and making meaning of the past, unveiled in transnational practices and everyday routines at their new home settings in Athens. Contrary to the nationalist-driven top-down approach to the past, history making from below and from within movements place disenfranchised groups’ narratives of the past at the centre of their democratic endeavour. Based on the precept that social memory is produced in all kinds of everyday and ordinary spaces, these subaltern heritages turn the mundane, the unnoticed and the domestic into focal loci of memory-work and a point of intimate connection with the past (Harvey 2008).

Within the mono-cultural landscape shaped by the Greek state and its archaeology, the Albanian families have remained hidden from heritage phenomena. In the aftermath of iron curtain dismantling and the development of Albanian community in Greece, notions of backwardness and wretchedness have epitomized Albanianness within the Greek public discourse. In opposition to these stigmatizing constructs, this project employs critical ethnography combined with participatory techniques to elaborate the personal, the emotional and the subjective experience of the Albanian family in the private and public realms of contemporary Athens. Examples of visual and material culture displayed in families’ homespaces, transnational connections with Albania and interactions with the Greek past suggest a broadened conceptualisation of heritage crystallised at the cross-roads of the old and the new home.

Funding organisation

  • Lilian Voudouri Foundation


 Educational background

  • BA, Archaeology and History of Art, University of Athens, 2006
  • MA, Public Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, 2008

2010. Eros: from Hesiod’s Theogony to Late Antiquity, Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, 10th December 2009-11th April 2010. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 20, 161-171

2008. Archaeology for the multicultural (Athenian) society: towards an intercultural approach? Monumenta 3

2009. Addressing cultural diversity through the archaeological past: the case study of the immigrant communities in the Municipality of Athens. Institute of Archaeology Graduate Student Conference

Teaching 2009-present

‘Archaeology and Nationalism in Greece’. Lecture for Archaeology and Ethnicity Masters option course at the Institute of Archaeology

  • Photo from the great-grandmother’s wedding in the 1920s North Albania. The lace wedding dress is hand sewn by the great-grandmother and currently belongs to a museum collection in Albania according to the family
  • Four-year-old Greek-born boy of Albanian descent wearing the qeleshe (traditional Albanian skull cap) and holding the Albanian flag
  • Drawing by five-year-old Greek-born boy of Albanian descent prepared at school for the celebrations of the 25th of March Greek national holiday

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