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The post-socialist restitution of property as dispossession: Social dynamics and land development in Southern Albania

Triantis, Loukas
Land use policy 2018 v.71 pp. 584-592
business enterprises, coasts, economic investment, land tenure, land use, leasing, tourism, Albania
The article examines the post-socialist restitution of property as a process of land dispossession related to coastal tourism development. It focuses: first on Albania, a former socialist country with distinct particularities regarding property issues which call the notion of “restitution” in question and, second, on the coastal area of Himara in Southern Albania, as a case of extreme insecurity in land tenure, absent owners, intense pressures for tourism development and particular ethnocultural features. Methodologically, it builds on the concept of accumulation by dispossession but also land rent in order to examine the benefits from land development, while it mainly rests on qualitative approaches and systematic fieldwork. The article argues that the framework on the restitution of property in Albania has been key in supporting land dispossession in the area of Himara, especially linked to tourism development. In this case, the land dispossession regimes present contextual configurations regarding the specific conjuncture and land features, the scales of capital investment and ethnocultural parameters. At the same time, the article situates land dispossession within the context of the wider land development dynamics in the area of Himara. Although accumulation by dispossession tends to favour the domestic real estate companies and investment groups, the local population has also a share in the benefits from land development mainly through informal practices and the support of local networks. By recalling the notion of land rent, the article brings evidence that rents do not only stem from the post-socialist restitution of property and accumulation by dispossession, as much of the academic scholarship suggests. They also stem from diversified social dynamics and informality, which support tourism development and mobilise rent’s distributional role, especially in a context of land tenure insecurity.