The IES Research Colloquium: Kailey Rocker

October 7th, 2019
Kailey Rocker (IES Visiting Scholar, Doctoral Candidate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill): “Telling the Truth through Mise-en-scene: The Art of Translating the Recent Past in Post-Socialist Albania”

Lunch will be served at 12:15 pm
C.K. Choi, Rm #351

Abstract – This decade, there has been an unprecedented effort in the small Mediterranean nation of Albania to ballafaquar, or face head-on, the so-called ‘communist past.’ This effort is tied with the country’s desire to build a more modern, European, and democratic future. Without any official state-crafted narratives, different actors, from nongovernmental organizations to state institutions and lay persons, are looking to today’s youth – those born following the former regime’s collapse in the early 1990s – to take on the ethical and evidential burden of dealing with the past.
The process of dealing with the past is intertwined with the logic of transition, an incommensurable logic that attempts to organize regimes in a linear manner but in practice betrays those regimes’ interconnectedness. In this talk, I move us away from thinking about the process of dealing with the past as something done ‘in-transition’ to something done ‘in-translation. Projects that attempt to deal with the past involve multiple levels of translation work that connect the process with contemporary issues like job security. In particular, I draw on interviews conducted with young aspiring filmmakers who participated in a Swiss-sponsored project that produced a series of documentary shorts examining Albania’s socialist past. Through the process of translation, what began as a collaboration between a foreign embassy and an art school aimed at inspiring youth to reflect on the former socialist regime became an opportunity for those youth to do the following: 1) script, stage, and edit narratives that deconstructed contemporary understandings of the socialist past, making that past more legible or visible to the young filmmakers, 2) challenge the notion of truth versus fiction in story-telling, and 3) gain practical skills for their future careers.