International and internal migration have characterised Albania since 1990, when the communist regime established in the aftermath of the Second World War was on its last legs. While the number of studies on Albanian migration, both national and transnational, has grown, only a few adopt the perspective of gender. Employing a gender perspective on migration is not only about using sex-disaggregated statistics but also explaining the processes and discourses in migration involving women and men, their relations to each other (Erel et al., 2003) and among women themselves (Parreñas, 2009)
1.1 Motivations Behind This Research
International and internal migration have characterised Albania since 1990, when the communist regime established in the aftermath of the Second World War was on its last legsFootnote 1. While the number of studies on Albanian migration, both national and transnational, has grown, only a few adopt the perspective of gender. Employing a gender perspective on migration is not only about using sex-disaggregated statistics but also explaining the processes and discourses in migration involving women and men, their relations to each other (Erel et al., 2003) and among women themselves (Parreñas, 2009)
In the early 2000s, while working at the Albanian National Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), I was part of a research group on Gender and Migration, whose primary output was the publication of Gender Perspectives in Albania, (Ekonomi et al., 2004), an essay that focused on the 2001 Albanian Census from a gender perspective, and that marked the first serious attempt to analyse gender and internal migration in Albania. I benefited greatly from this work, firstly because, as a recent sociology graduate, I was thrown straightaway into the vast universe of gender and migration studies. Secondly, this particular project helped me evaluate the many gaps in knowledge concerning the relationship between gender and migration in Albania. As I worked with census data, I realised the pressing need for qualitative research to grasp the dynamics of migration processes from a gender perspective. This experience magnified further my goal to pursue an in-depth analysis of gender and migration in Albania. Over the ensuing years, I worked on other projects related to gender issues in the country, but as I embarked on my doctoral research, this initial idea persisted in my mind.
The reason behind this project, however, is rooted also in something more personal: internal and international migration have characterised my life. I was born in Shkodër, a large city in northern Albania, while my parents, both from the south, were transferred there for work. My family’s experience represents the primary pattern of internal Albanian migration during the communist period: the state stationed you wherever there was need. After Shkodër, my father was next assigned to Tirana, and later Saranda, a coastal city in southern Albania. In 1990, I moved back to Tirana, and in 1994, after finishing high school, I went to Switzerland. The eight years I spent in Switzerland represented the longest period of stillness I had ever experienced, at the time. Upon my return to Albania in 2002, I went through another period of relative motionlessness for another ten years, before returning, in 2012, to back-to-back international relocations. Personal experiences with migration, whether internally or internationally, are not in themselves reason enough to pursue research on gender and migration in Albania. However, these experiences did give me an extra push, a more personal motivation, to choose this topic for my doctoral research, which is the basis of the present book.
1.2 Research Context
The feminist and the constructivist approaches provide the epistemological lenses of this research. The feminist standpoint adopted here aims to critically analyse women’s experiences and voices, while taking into account the differences between them. This book focuses on Albanian migrant women’s experiences and starts with the assumption that gender is a social construct and an organising principle of society. Within the framework of these two epistemological lenses, I seek to understand how gender relates to the migration process. In particular, I will look into how gender shapes migration and the construction of the migrant woman, on the one hand, and how different migration processes influence gender relations, on the other.
Until the mid-1980s, women were mostly invisible in migration studies, except as the family members in charge of the domestic sphere and childrearing. When their experiences were addressed, studies treated women as the dependents of men, who were considered to be the leading providers of household resources. These views started to change once scholars such as Morokvasic (1984b) introduced a gender perspective into migration studies, and thus began to examine women’s particular experiences at largeFootnote 2. Studies have shown that gender informs migration processes by influencing migrants’ projects, trajectories, work opportunities, family relations and social networks (Boyd & Grieco, 2003; Dahinden et al., 2007)
Scholars have demonstrated that many women migrate on their own to help their families economically, in contrast to the image of women as passive dependent subjects that is often presented in the literature on migration (Kofman & Raghuram, 2015; Oso Casas, 2006; Schmoll, 2006; Vianello, 2009). Women participate in the decision-making process regarding migration, receive and send remittances and support the migration of other family members and themselves (Dahinden et al., 2007). Additionally, analyses of migration have also considered the intersection of gender with class and race (Dahinden 2010b; Silvey 2004; Parreñas, 2001). Studies have also shown that it is challenging to draw universal conclusions regarding the interrelation of gender and migration. According to Dahinden et al. (2007), migration influences gender relations in various ways; it may reinforce gender inequalities or question and transform them. Migration can be either exploitative or liberating: it might lead to new opportunities and better economic situations but also new gender constraints and precarity (Morokvasic, 2003; Moujoud, 2008).
Migration was long studied mainly in terms of immigration, and only from the perspective of the destination country (Morokvasic 1984a, 17). Studies on transnationalism and the diversity of migration trajectories (Morokvasic 1984a, Morokvasic, 2003; Dahinden, 2010a, b; Vianello, 2011; Vullnetari, 2012; Mai & Paladini, 2013), however, have demonstrated that looking solely at the destination country limits how we analyse migratory processes. The realities of migration cannot be understood when considered only in binary terms of emigration and immigration, integration and return, temporary and permanent migration, and when the migration process is understood as a one-way, unidirectional affair (Morokvasic, 1984a). Other forms of migration, such as pendular movement, might not be statistically visible, as in the case of Albanian migration, but they do exist. Moreover, the reasons for engaging in migration, whatever trajectory migration may take, are always gendered. In putting forth its analysis, this research project employs the concept of migration as a process, not a unidirectional movement. Migration as a process encompasses various migration trajectories, including internal, international, circular and return trajectories, all shaped by and interrelated with gender.
1.3 The Albanian Context
Women’s emancipation was among the state’s central policies during the socialist era. The government followed a model similar to that of other socialist countries that Moghadam (1995) calls the “Women’s Emancipation Model.” This model included policies to support women’s participation in the productive labour force, as well as new laws to promote the equality between men and women. A reconfiguration of gender roles and the gender division of labour occurred in socialist countries (Verdery, 1996). However, women’s increased participation in education, employment, and even in the Albanian Labour Party and high-level bureaucracy did not translate into an equal division of roles and responsibilities within the household. Traditional gender roles, with women remaining the sole responsible for reproductive labour, persisted in the domestic space.
Women’s situation in the aftermath of the fall of the communist regime is proof of this persistence of traditional family roles (Gal & Kligman, 2000; Verdery, 1996; Brunnbauer, 2000). Former socialist countries, each in its own way, experienced a period of retraditionalisationFootnote 3—a return to so-called traditional values and family life that relegated women to the home once again (Kligman, 1994, 256; Verdery, 1996, 79). Following this pan-East European trend (Bonfiglioli, 2014; Gal & Kligman, 2000; Heyns, 1995; Morokvasic, 2003; Rosenberg, 1991), women in Albania, too, retired to the domestic space and reproductive work. This state of affairs has changed over the ensuing years, as Albanian women have increasingly re-entered the formal labour market, politics and become active members in civil society organisations. Other, less visible phenomena have accompanied these changes, however, including women’s engagement in the informal labour market, working long hours for low pay and no social security protection. Albania has also seen a rising numbers of female university students, and a falling fertility rate.
Uniquely among former communist countries, Albania entirely forbade migration from the country during the socialist era. Consequently, after the fall of Communism in 1991, many Albanians felt the pull of freedom of movement, regardless of whether they were allowed to cross other countries’ borders. Since the fall of socialism and the accompanying erosion of the state infrastructure that strictly regulated internal and international migration, an estimated 1.5 million people have left Albania, more than half of the resident population in 2017 (GoA, 2018). The first decade of post-socialism witnessed mostly male migration, but data gathered in 2001 point to a shift: the gap between male and female migrants leaving Albania has become increasingly insignificant (Galanxhi et al., 2004; INSTAT, 2002; King & Vullnetari, 2012; Vullnetari, 2012). The ratio of women and men involved in international migration rose from 1:5 in 1991 to 3:5 in 2001 (Azzarri & Carletto, 2009, 7). Although women migrate abroad primarily for family reunification, the two primary exceptions are ‘professional women and students moving to obtain a high-status qualification or job that brings prestige to the family’ (King & Vullnetari, 2012, 213). Additionally, data (Ekonomi et al., 2004; Galanxhi et al., 2004; INSTAT, 2002) on internal Albanian migration reveal that it is not men but rather women who are more likely to migrate internally. According to the 2011 census (Galanxhi et al., 2014), women made up 59 per cent of internal migrants in the 2001–2011 period. Put differently, the sex ratio for internal migration during this period was 100 women to 69 men.
Numerous studies on Albanian migration, primarily to Greece and Italy, were conducted during the 1990s (e.g. Barjaba, 2000; Barjaba et al., 1992; Bërxholi & Doka, 1996; Tarifa, 1995) and have been enriched by a proliferation of research on Albanian migration since 2001. A significant reason for this proliferation was that the publication of the Albanian Population and Housing Census of 2001 gave the first overall picture of the dramatic magnitude of internal and international migration in Albania. The 2002 and 2005 Albanian Living Standards Measurement Surveys (ALSMS) followed. This research stream focused precisely on internal and international migration and initially drew mostly from the statistical data generated by the 2001 census and the 2002 ALSMS. Other INSTAT publications based on the 2001 census data shared insightful analysis of internal migration (Galanxhi et al., 2004) from a gender perspective (Ekonomi et al., 2004) and built an overall picture of the scope of international migration (INSTAT, 2002). Since the early 2000s, Albanian migration has become an attractive case study for domestic and foreign scholars, who treat the country as a laboratory for the research of migration (King 2005). Scholars have also analysed the ALSMS 2002 data to capture statistical insights about internal and international movement (Azzarri & Carletto, 2009; Stecklov et al., 2010; Zezza et al., 2005). Topics of analysis have included remittances (King & Vullnetari, 2010; Uruci & Gëdeshi, 2003), high-skilled migration (EMA, 2010; Gërmenji & Gëdeshi, 2008; Gërmenji & Milo, 2011; Orgocka, 2005; Trimçev et al., 2005; Zenelaga & Sotirofski, 2011) and the link between internal and international migration (King et al., 2008; Vullnetari, 2012). There is valuable research on Albanian migrants abroad from the perspective of receiving countries (Vathi, 2011; Olsson, 2014; Mai & Paladini, 2013; Maroukis & Gemi, 2011; Vaiou, 2002; Lyberaki 2011; Gemi, 2015).
More research on migrants’ experiences incorporating a gender perspective followed (Çaro 2011; Vullnetari, 2012; Gjermeni, 2004; Vullnetari, 2009; Vullnetari & King, 2016) and promoted the visibility of women in the internal and international processes of migration in AlbaniaOn the other hand, some studies have shown that statistical analysis of migration often obscures or does not examine the experiences of women migrants. Analyses from migrants’ perspective (Vullnetari, 2012; Çaro 2011; Gjermeni, 2004; Olsson, 2014) have demonstrated that the dynamics are far more complex than what numbers can show us, as is the position of women in the migratory processes. Thus, there still remains space for research and studies that will enable us to understand the experiences of Albanian migrant women and the broader interrelations between migration and gender.
Although figures (Ekonomi et al., 2004; INSTAT, 2002; Stecklov et al., 2010; World Bank, 2007) at the national level reveal a predominance of men in international migration and women in internal movements, women’s participation in migration processes in Albania is more multifaceted. Amid the numerous studies on Albanian migration, few focus specifically on the entanglement of gender and migration and even fewer on the experiences of migrant women. Furthermore, an in-depth investigation of the migration trajectories of Albanian women that is not be limited only to internal and international migration can produce profound insights. As I show throughout this book, these migratory trajectories undoubtedly influence gender relations, either by reinforcing the inequalities between women and men or by challenging gender norms and transforming gender relations.
1.4 Research Objectives and Question(s)
International migration in Albania has been considered to be a male-dominated phenomenon, particularly in the decade between 1990 and 2000 when men migrated for economic reasons, and women remained in Albania or moved internally to care for their families. Various scholars (Vullnetari, 2009; King & Vullnetari, 2012; Çaro 2011), however, have shown that women’s participation in Albanian migration processes is many-sided, much more so than it may first appear in macro-level studies. Researchers have called for additional studies that provide a more comprehensive understanding of women’s experiences and roles in migration in Albania.
This project is situated in this context, and the primary objective of my research is: To explore and understand the interrelation of gender and migration in Albania and, more specifically, to examine how gender influences the process of migration for women and how the effects of migration transform gender relations. This study follows a qualitative methodology aimed at answering a general question and several sub-questions guiding the research process. The central research question explored in this research is: How can we understand the interrelation of gender and migration in Albania?
The central research question is broken into three main sub-questions, further refined into the main points on which this research focuses, (1) What tactics and strategies do Albanian migrant women employ during the migration process? (2) How can the migration trajectories of Albanian women be characterised? (3) How can the lives of female migrants in Tirana be understood and characterised?
This research focuses on the narratives told by women living in Tirana after experiencing trajectories of internal and international migration and, therefore, cannot give answers about what happens next in their lives. The moment when I conducted the interviews may be only a step in their migratory journeys before they move again. However, these women’s experiences, up until the time this research was conducted and when they all lived in Tirana, help deepen our understanding of Albanian migration and the interrelation of gender and migration in the Albanian context.
1.5 Research Design and Methods
Neither observer nor observed come to a scene untouched by the world.
Kathy Charmaz (2006, 15)
This research follows a qualitative approach, as such an approach is best suited to the exploration of gender relations and migration in Albania. To engage in qualitative research means ‘to step beyond the known and enter the worlds of participants, to see the world from their perspective’ (Corbin & Strauss, 2008, 16). Qualitative research allows the researcher to grasp the inner experience of the participants, to determine the formation of meanings through and in culture and to discover, instead of simply testing variables. Besides, qualitative research helps better explain migrant livelihoods because it enables an in-depth understanding of the participants’ experiences (Çaro 2011, 55). Thus, given that quantitative-only approaches have been shown to be limited when exploring the gendered aspect of migration, and the need to grasp the complexity of migrant women’s experiences, a qualitative feminist approach is justified in this case.
Qualitative research focused on women’s experiences has become a precious tool for feminist studies. Thirty years ago, Maria Mies (Mies, 1983) outlined the reasons why feminist analysis is more linked to qualitative than quantitative studies. According to Mies (Mies, 1983), quantitative research often ignores the voices of women, turns them into objects and analyses them in a value-neutral way rather than specifically as women. Qualitative research, in contrast, listens to women’s perspectives and engages with their lived experiences. However, feminist scholars and researchers have argued that feminist research should not be limited to qualitative methods, and methodological pluralism has become more popular among gender researchers (Walby, 2011).
In addition to qualitative research and a feminist social constructivist approach, I also chose to apply some elements of the grounded theory method. This theory holds that both researchers and participants interpret meanings and actions and that both analysis and data are social constructions that mirror the production process involved (Charmaz, 2006). Charmaz (2005) furthermore highlights that research focussed on social justice topics can use grounded theory methodology. The ability to do so is crucial for my research because as a feminist scholar, my aim is not only to study and understand migrant women’s experiences but also to identify and highlight present gender inequalities in order to contribute to some measure of change in women’s situations.
Throughout this research project, with regards to methodology, I rely mostly on the works of Flick (2009), Hesse-Biber (2007a), Bryant and Charmaz (2007), Charmaz (2005) and Olesen (2007). Other sources, such as Glaser and Strauss (2012), Mason (2002), Denzin and Lincoln (2005), provide a broad understanding and thoughtful example of the uses of the research methods employed in qualitative and grounded theory. I follow Bryant and Charmaz’s (2007) method which is considered to be a more constructivist approach to grounded theory research. According to Charmaz (2006, 10), data and theories are not discovered but rather are ‘part of the world we study and the data we collect’. It is of great importance to mention here that the constructivist approach to grounded theory fits very well with feminist research, as both recognise the role of the researcher in the construction and interpretation of data (Olesen, 2007, 422).
1.5.1 Research Methods and Analysis
Following a feminist perspective, I decided to work only with women. Doing so does not hinder my analysing of the interrelation of gender and migration (Erel et al., 2003; Parreñas, 2009). As Parreñas (2001) states, when we speak about women’s gendered experiences, we are always implicitly referring to men also. Likewise, gender relations imply relations not only between men and women, but also among men and women (Connell, 2002). In the same vein, Erel, Morokvasic and Shinozaki (2003) contend that even if we take only female migrants as our direct subject of inquiry, their experiences shed light on gendered migration, gendered institutional settings and social arrangements as a whole.
I started my research in the neighbourhood of Don Bosko in 2011, and after conducting a first small set of interviews, I expanded into the area of Komuna e Parisit. Both sites were developed mainly due to internal migration, as explained in Chap. 3. I did not set an exact number of women to interview beforehand, as I had decided to construct the sample based on my analysis of the first set of interviews.
I had three key informants, one in Don Bosko and two in Komuna e Parisit, who shared their knowledge of the neighbourhoods, informed me about the geographical distribution of migrants in the area and helped me map the economic conditions within the research sitesFootnote 4. When conducting qualitative research, participants are selected according to their significance to the research topic, and not to construct a statistical sample that is representative of the general population. The goal is to increase complexity by bringing in context, as opposed to reducing complexity by dissolving it into variables (Flick, 2009, 91). For my research, I followed a purposive sampling, selecting the participants based on their specific characteristics according to the main objective of the study. However, I did not develop the sample beforehand but based it on the on-going analysis of the data. I applied several criteria (Morse, 1998) while sampling participants: they had to have knowledge and experience of the issue to provide useful insights through their narratives, as well as time to participate in the research (by doing interviews in this case). I approached a few women using my key informants’ information and then developed the sample through the snowballing technique. When using this nonprobability sampling method, each person interviewed may be asked to suggest additional people for interviewing (Babbie, 2013, 129).
I started interviews in Don Bosko with migrant women who had arrived in Tirana after 1991. During this early exploratory phase, while conducting the first interviews and consulting the relevant literature, however, I noted other themes coming to the fore, such as educational migration. I modified and expanded the sampling accordingly to reflect on, complicate and do justice to the vast experiences of female migration in Albania. During the sampling process—through a constant process of data analysing and observations, identification of interesting themes and statements and writing of memos —it became clear that focusing only on internal migration would limit the answers to the main research question about the interrelation of gender and migration. At the same time, internal migration in Albania is very rarely unconnected to international migration. Consequently, I decided to modify the sample by also including women who had migrated internationally. This modification was also in response to an additional research question that developed gradually as I researched the migratory trajectories of Albanian migrant women. The distinction between internal and international migration is necessary as, despite overlapping patterns of internal and international migration, crossing country borders entails significant challenges for Albanian citizens. Whereas they can freely move internally, Albanian citizens have to comply with visa regimes and migration policies if they intend to enter other countries. Therefore, I first separated the sample into two broad groups: women who migrated only internally and women who engaged in international, internal, circular and return migration.
The number of single women migrating on their own to Tirana as students has been on the rise the last two decades. However, they still remain an under-researched group in the context of Albanian migration. For this reason, I opted to include educational migration as a further point of distinction regarding both internal and international migration. Thus, four groups began to take a more precise shape, and included women who migrated internally for reasons other than education; internal student migrants; women who migrated internationally for reasons other than education; international student migrants.
The common feature of all the thirty-two participating women is that they had undergone internal or multiple migratory trajectories. Still, at the time I conducted my fieldwork, all lived in Tirana. I did not divide the sample into these four groups to draw comparisons between them. Instead, I highlight the idiosyncrasies of Albanian female migrants to see what their specific experiences reveal about the social processes in regards to migration and gender.
The final sample includes thirty-two women of different ages involved in various migratory processes. One of my aims while doing the sampling was to have women from various regions of the country, including villages, small towns and big cities. The majority of the women interviewed come from small towns, and four from villages. Only three women lived in extended families at the time of their first migration project, while the rest lived in nuclear families. The low number of extended families reflects their decline in the Albanian context, as I explain in Chap. 3. The economic situation of the participants’ families (or families of origin for the women who migrated on their own) is diverse. Educational attainment was another criterion for sampling—I deliberately set out to interview women who had migrated for educational purposes. In this case, I sought to diversify the sample by region of origin (northern-southern city—town—village). The women who did not migrate for educational purposes have various educational backgrounds (lower secondary—upper secondary—university).
My research objectives began to crystallise during the interviewing and analysis processes, which allowed me to refine my sample configuration. Through the on-going examination of the conducted interviews, I polished my objectives and turned them into research questions. For example, when starting this research, I had no clear goals, such as investigating the migration trajectories of women (as mentioned above).
Table 1.1 gives some brief general information about the research participants. I include more details about these women at the beginning of each analysis chapter.
The participants’ anonymity was a critical point of concern respected throughout this research. To preserve anonymity, the names used in this table and throughout the text are not the participants’ real names but suitable equivalents.
To conduct the interviews, I drew on Charmaz (2006) and Hesse-Biber (2007b), who describe the process of feminist interviewing. Charmaz (2006, 26) calls this ‘intensive interviewing’; however, I refer to it as ‘in-depth’ interviewing. ‘Intensive interviewing permits an in-depth exploration of a particular topic or experience and, thus, is a useful method for interpretive inquiry’ (Charmaz, 2006, 26). In-depth interviews are a valuable tool for feminist research in order to better understand the world of the respondents (Hesse-Biber, 2007b, 114). Feminist scholars must capture the experiences under the surface. In-depth interviewing allows researchers to listen to women’s voices and to get a better sense of their hidden experiences. It gives researchers access to the participants’ ideas, thoughts and memories in their own words rather than the researcher’s terms. This latter is essential to studies centred on women, as ‘in this way learning from women is an antidote to centuries of ignoring women’s ideas altogether or having men speak for women’ (Reinharz, 1992, 17).
In-depth interviews are not interrogations but exploration tools. The interview process resembles a conversation where the interviewer talks less and listens more in order to explore and understand the respective issues and topics of interest of the interviewee and to discover others. An in-depth interview may be unstructured (or a loosely guided exploration of issues) (Charmaz, 2006, 26), semi-structured or structured (Hesse-Biber, 2007b, 116) depending on the themes chosen and the methods picked to explore them.
For this research, I conducted interviews that fell somewhere between the semi-structured and unstructured models. I had an interview guide, a list of written topics that I needed to cover to respond to the primary research objective and questions. I selected this interview style as I wanted to thoroughly explore the women’s experiences but also guide the interview back to my questions, in case it deviated from the main topic. However, I was also open to asking new questions based on the information revealed by the participants. The interview schedule was not tightly fixed and allowed time and space for spontaneity, as recommended by Hesse-Biber (2007b). However, I followed the principle that interviewing requires some narrowing of the interview topics in order to gather specific data for developing theoretical frameworks (Charmaz, 2006, 29.) I designed my interview guide so that I would be able to capture a broad view of the participants’ experiences, but also so that the questions are narrow enough for me to gather sufficient data to construct my theoretical framework.
Only the preliminary questions concerning all participants’ general background information—such as their age, civil status and city or village of origin—expected specific answers. At the start of the interview, I asked the participants to share this information briefly. Next, I had a list of topics that I needed to cover while still leaving room for the participants’ stories. My main concern was to occasionally narrow the interview without abruptly interrupting the narrative, while still directing it so as to cover the area of interest. Based on Charmaz’s (2006) guidelines, I also tried to leave enough space for the participants to speak but was careful not to display a lack of interest, which can be an issue during in-depth interviews.
To conclude this section, I want to recall Denzin and Lincoln’s (2005, 643) idea that the interview ‘is not a neutral tool, for at least two people create the reality of the interview situation. In this situation, answers are given. Thus, the interview produces situated understandings grounded in specific interactional episodes. This method is influenced by the personal characteristics of the interviewer, including race, class, ethnicity, and gender’. The relation between the researcher and the participant then is of paramount importance. Feminist researchers have concluded that it is impossible for there to be an equal balance of power between the researcher and the participant. This imbalance can be solved by the researcher exercising reflexivity throughout the interview and the research in general and by following all the ethical principles of conducting interviews. Reflexivity entails the constant examination of the ‘unthought categories of thought which delimit the thinkable and predetermine the thought’ (Bourdieu, 1982, 10). The researcher should continuously reflect on biases that may affect the construction of the object and ‘scrutinise and neutralise… the collective scientific unconscious embedded in theories, problems, and [especially national] categories of scholarly judgment’ (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992, 40). Moreover, reflexivity is a critical element in feminist research (Hesse-Biber, 2007a, b; Olesen, 2007).
Reflexivity begins with an understanding of the importance of one’s values and attitudes within the research process, and this begins prior to entering the field. Reflexivity means taking a critical look inward—a reflection on one’s own lived reality and experiences, a self-reflection or journey. How does your own biography impact the research process? What shapes the questions you chose to study and your approach to studying them? How does the specific social, economic, and political context in which you reside impact the research process at all levels?’ (Hesse-Biber, 2007b, 129)
The reflexivity process has been one of my biggest concerns as my work as a woman’s rights activist in Albania likely influenced the data collection and analysis at some point during my research. Given that the social conditions, social location and social biography of both the observer and the observed affect knowledge (Hesse-Biber, 2007b, 131), I sought to minimise the influence of my biases and background on the research as much as possible. Through consultations with colleagues and their comments, I attempted to get a good description of how I handled my study and reflect on my background, how it was influencing my research and my emotions, worries and feelings—the three levels of reflections according to Olesen (2007, 423). These consultations and discussions often brought me face to face with the ‘unthought categories’ (Bourdieu, 1982, 10) expressed in my writing and analysis and encouraged me to scrutinise them, reflect upon them and rewrite.
1.6 Book Structure
This book is divided into two main parts. The first part serves to set the context by including the theoretical framework and chapters on the Albanian context. The second part includes four chapters where I analyse the interviews and results. Chapter 2 of Part 1 discusses the theoretical framework, presents the primary lenses used in this research (feminist and constructionist epistemologies) and develops the concepts of gender and migration that are central to this study. The introduction of gender to migration studies and the main patterns identified in these many studies provides another analytical framework. Chapter 3 on the Albanian context is longer and includes at first a brief overview of social, economic and political background in Albania and the migratory processes in the nation during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Next, the chapter discusses Tirana, the capital of Albania and the primary research site. Finally, this chapter covers women’s situation in Albania, setting the context for the investigation and the analysis of the interviews that will follow.
The four remaining chapters present an analysis of the four categories of migrant women living in Tirana that I interviewed at the time of the research. First, I focus on studying the experiences of those migrants that migrated for reasons other than education, and secondly, on the experiences of internal and international student migrants. The final and concluding chapter presents the main analytical findings concerning the research question and highlights points for further research and analysis.
Albania was called the People’s Republic of Albania from 1946 until 1976 and the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania from 1976 until 1991. Nevertheless, the literature, both Albanian and foreign, frequently refers to the 1944–1991 period and the state during that period as the communist regime, the communist period, totalitarianism, the socialist state, socialism and monism. This terminology applies not only to Albania but also to Central and Eastern European countries more generally, which are often called the Communist Bloc, the socialist states and similar terms. Therefore, when referring to Albania, I use the terms socialist period, socialist regime, communist period and communist regime interchangeably.
In this book, I refer extensively to the work of Mirjana Morokvasic, not only for the analyses she has provided on gender in migration studies but also her contributions on the topics of circular migration, the transnational presence of mothers, patterns of south-eastern European female migration, among others. Another scholar quoted significantly is Janine Dahinden, in particular for her studies on transnationalism and pendular migration. For Albania more specifically, I refer widely to the work of Juli Vullnetari and Russell King. Vullnetari has also analysed Albanian migration from a gender perspective; hence her work is valuable to my own analysis.
When talking about retraditionalisation, we should be cautious considering also that during communism gender roles were not free from ‘traditional’ traits. Women’s emancipation during communism was meant principally in relation to the productive sphere, not the reproductive one; it did not mean an individual liberation. Women’s engagement in the productive sphere did not result in the equal participation of men in the reproductive sphere; women remained in charge of the caregiver role. They were asked to re-model patriarchal traits to mirror an ideal socialist family: they were now part of the productive sphere, but in the domestic sphere they remained mainly within the borders of the patriarchal system, subordinated to husband and/or in-laws (Danaj, 2020)
I had no limits or preferences regarding the city or village of origin, whether north or south. Likewise, I had no specific age limitations for the participants, other than no younger than 18 years old and no older than 60 years old. The lower limit of 18 years old respected the Albanian Civil Code’s ban on marriage among those younger than 18 years old. The upper limit of 60 years old excluded female old-age pensioners.
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Danaj, E. (2022). Introduction. In: Women, Migration and Gendered Experiences. IMISCOE Research Series. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-92092-0_1
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