The Society for Albanian Studies is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2020 Stavro Skendi Book Prize for Achievement in Albanian Studies is awarded to Dr. Smoki Musaraj (Ohio University) for Tales from Albarado: Ponzi Logics of Accumulation in Postsocialist Albania (Cornell University Press, 2020).
Tales from Albarado – Albarado elides Albania and El Dorado – describes a key moment in modern Albanian history: the rise and fall of the so-called ‘pyramid firms’ of the 1990s, when 1.5 million investors lost upwards of $1 billion to a dozen different, sprawling Ponzi schemes. This financial collapse led in 1997-1998 to a near-civil war and set Albania’s new, capitalist economy back a decade, or more. Employing economic-anthropological theoretical frameworks and based on both archival-documentary and ethnographic data, Musaraj concludes that the Albanian pyramid phenomenon was not a result of illogical economic behavior, i.e. a hysteria; rather, such phenomena – and the growth and bursting of financial ‘bubbles’ generally – are predictable outcomes of fast-moving, liberalized economies that allow and encourage multiple capitalist (‘official,’ ‘embedded’) and non-capitalist (‘kin-based’, ‘non-embedded’) wealth-generating strategies. In fact, Musaraj’s detailed description and analysis of Albania’s post-socialist economy blurs these various dichotomies and demonstrates that traditional economic approaches, which depend on various neo-liberal assumptions, such as rational action, and do not consider socio-cultural contexts, are misguided at best, and potentially tragic at worst. Tales from Albarado will for this reason have impacts that reach well beyond Albanian Studies into many diverse academic fields, including anthropology, economics, and history, and should be read by policy makers as well. The SAS is proud, therefore, to award the Skendi Book Prize to Dr. Smoki Musaraj and hopes her fine book will be very widely read and her warnings about the unintended consequences of capitalism carefully considered.
The Society for Albanian Studies is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2020 Arshi Pipa Best Graduate Student Award is Arbër Jashari for his study entitled “Tradition, Affect, Ethics: A View of Kosova’s Movement of Non-violent Resistance in the 1990s.”