Julia MacNelly ’14
Project: Narrating Albanian Identity
Major: Humanities major in interdisciplinary studies in culture
Grant: Johnson summer student research
Julia MacNelly’s work with the Balkans Peace Park Project last summer did more than allow her to promote the nonprofit’s transnational peace park on the borders of Kosovo, Montenegro, and Albania—it also encouraged her to study the concept of national identity amongst ethnic Albanians and apply that research to her studies at Scripps.
The senior went to Albania for four weeks courtesy of a Johnson summer research grant; while there, she lived in two small northern villages volunteering and talking with locals. The country’s ethnically homogeneous population (more than 95 percent consists of ethnic Albanians; the Geghs in the north and the Tosks in the south) still differ from each other in linguistic, historical-cultural, and socio-religious secondary characteristics.
MacNelly was intrigued by these differences and began to study them; she befriended young Albanians to better understand their concept of national identity and how those conceptions differ from region to region. “I noticed sometimes they felt the need to align their identities with more modern, metropolitan views,” she says. “Other times, they took pride in their [traditional] national identities.”
She spent the next three weeks traveling through Romania, Kosovo, and Montenegro, continuing her research informally. MacNelly observed similar contradictory identity patterns throughout the region, and her insights into the region and people inform her senior thesis and future research. “The more you learn,” she says, “the more you realize you need to learn.”
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