Open letter to the Academy of Sciences

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 8, 2017 16:20

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  • In an open letter to the Albanian Academy of Sciences, Aleksander Dhima, the first Albanian anthropologist with more than four decades of experience, condemns the Academy's failure to elect him as an academician as degradation of the way the country's most important scientific institution operates

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In an open letter to the Albanian Academy of Sciences, Aleksander Dhima, the first Albanian anthropologist with more than four decades of experience, condemns the Academy’s failure to elect him as an academician as degradation of the way the country’s most important scientific institution operates

By Prof. Dr. Aleksander Dhima

Aleksander Dhima

Aleksander Dhima

What was expected happened: the first Albanian anthropologist could not become an academician! And the field of candidacy in the Section of Social and Albanological Sciences (February 2017) was determined in Anthropology. The final vote result at the Assembly showed that I, the creator of Albanian anthropology, got only 1/3 of votes!

The recommendation made to my anthropological profile by Prof. Dr. Adrian Civici (the President of the European University of Tirana, where I have been a lecturer of Sociocultural Anthropology and Applied Anthropology for the past 7 years), stresses that “scientific research and teaching by professor Dhima is evaluated in several aspects” as a ‘pioneer’ of Albanian anthropology, a citizen of high national feelings, a tireless and continuous scholar and a wise demanding friend for younger generations of researchers.”

Likewise, Prof. Dr.  Horst Schmidt (one of the German mentors of my post-doctoral thesis at the Ulm University in Germany, notes in his recommendation: “Thanks to him, Albania, with the respective scientific contributions, has been admitted and praised in Germany as a partner country. To us, Dr. Dhima is a reliable source and an important contact person regarding information on the state of anthropology science for that country.”   Another quote by Prof. Dr. Romeo Gurakuqi, published on daily MAPO on February 25-26 2017: “The Monograph ‘The ethnic anthropology of Albanians’ is the ‘lifetime work’ by Prof. Aleksander Dhima, a work of real Albanological character, where through treating some of the most important aspects of the ethno-cultural ‘shaping’ of Albanians, he aimed at highlighting the correlation of the traits of different natures in the Albanians’ anthropological synthesis. This work fulfils a realistic judgment on the ‘‘track’ of further research into the applied fields of Anthropology in Albania. I have the conviction that this work will be echoed broadly, not only in the domestic scientific environment, but also beyond borders, especially among Albanian intellectuals who live abroad, and hopefully broader in international scientific circles.”

What do you think, can these be interventions to ‘praise’ my work or do you have to trust these renowned professors? I don’t think the chairmanship of Academy of Sciences can doubt the truthfulness of their quotes… On the other hand, I don’t think there are considerations of this nature by the recommenders of the candidacy of the other contestant, Prof. Shaban Sinani, specifically on his achievements in the field of Albanian anthropology.

Then, one should have flaws intellectually, ethically and professionally by trying to cheat or ‘fling mud’ at Section or Assembly members, hoping that they could not have adequate knowledge in the respective fields, forcing them (through unfair lobbying) to vote blindfold, without being aware how fields of sciences differ from each other, for example, if a poet can be an academician not in literature, but in Albanological sciences, or as Prof. Artan Fuga puts it, – “to intentionally mistake ethnography with folklore, folklore with literary history, literary studies with anthropology, anthropology with who knows what else… At the end of the day, why should we so shamefully award such titles at a time when they could become academicians more decently in the field they really develop, i.e. if their merits are really competitive against other candidates within their respective fields.”

In fact, on what logical or academic basis, the Sections or Chairmanship decided that a literary scholar should be admitted to compete for election as an academician not in the literature field, but in the field of anthropology? Doesn’t this look like nonsense from the viewpoint of academic logic to decide by vote, let’s say, a literary scholar, despite his fame, become an academician in anthropology?

Quite frankly, such undertaking by the Section of Social and Albanological Sciences and the Chairmanship is meaningless and unacceptable. The other candidate, Prof. Shaban Sinani, has no anthropological records, but he has another “advantage”: he is the scientific secretary of the Section of Social and Albanological Sciences. This is enough for him or his patrons in the Chairmanship of the Academy of Sciences, to impose upon “others” (I am sorry to say that, but people with no scientific authority) to vote for him…

To be more specific: for the two candidacies in case, were there taken into account important selective criteria such as: specialization (abroad, because there have been no such qualification opportunities in Albania in the field of anthropology), monographs and research into the field of anthropology, participations in international anthropology congresses, membership to international anthropology organizations, local and international projects focusing on anthropology, teaching in the field of ethnic anthropology, sociocultural or applied etc.? I take full responsibility to admit that none of these criteria was taken into consideration in the selection of the candidacy for the position of anthropologist and awarding the title of “Associated Academician” exactly on this field. Could such a situation take place at a time when the Academy of Science was headed by Prof. Aleks Buda? O tempora, o mores.

What happened to my more than four decades of work in the field of anthropology, at a time when I sacrificed my career in medicine, responding to a call by Prof. Aleks Buda, to take on studies in explaining Albanian ethnogenesis through anthropological means? I was hoping the Academy of Sciences would ‘recognize’ this contribution by awarding me the title in case, but this contribution was not taken into account, exactly because of pragmatic interests characterizing the Academy, the same to the current Albanian society (“give me/I will give you”).

Why does the current head of the Academy of Science, Prof. Muzafer Korkuti, pretend he has not understood my contribution at a time when “we shared numerous sacrifices on field expeditions to document Illyrian elements in the skeletal finds of (pre) Illyrian era, or my work in the scientific exigency of the articles of the “Iliria” magazine, where he was editor-in-chief, and which thanks to this work – was honored with the Golden Medal of the Academy of Lutece (Paris), or the recommendation he gave me (as director of the Archaeology Institute) so that I could get a scholarship at the “Alexander von Humboldt” Foundation on thorough studies in the field of ethnic anthropology of Albanians (1990), or his presence as participant in the promotion of my publication “Qasje në realitetin kulturor shqiptar” (Approaches in the Albanian cultural reality) (December 2013)? [Maybe because he didn’t ask me to write any festive article for him]. The current deputy head of the Academy of Sciences, Prof. Gudar Beqiraj, who knows quite well (when he was heading INIMA, the Institute of Informatics and Applied Mathematics) how he motivated me on the mathematical processing of the results on the analysis of the Middle Ages data in the skeletal material from Albania, why did he decide to “incite” other academicians?

The field expeditions (not few but 37 expeditions!) gave me a sense that it was worth it undertaking anthropological studies for this people which preserves priceless cultural and social values, based on which it has managed to survive and remain alive from a biogenetic viewpoint. In addition to inventorying and studying bone finds of different eras (pre) historic, there were intensified consequent field expeditions to follow the anthropological profile of the country’s current population, which was made possible thanks to anthropological research based on the big ethno-cultural zones of the country.

Based on the achievements of these expeditions, I wrote 3 monographs on the Albanians’ anthropology and the solution to the complicated issue of the Albanian ethnogenesis with anthropological means, 55 studies in specialized local and international scientific magazines (with an impact factor), essays, research papers, international and local projects, in cooperation with PhDs in Albania and abroad on issues of applied anthropology, I am also an author of (post) university textbooks on anthropology; a scholarship holder of the renowned German “Alexander von Humboldt” Foundation that gave me the opportunity to get insight on the reconstruction of the morphobiology of old populations and the determination of evolutionary elements of an anthropology character until the current population of the country.

In this case, there were clarified some of the hypotheses launched time after time by Albanologists  (both Albanian and foreigners) on the Illyrian ancestry and the Illyrian-Albanian continuation.

The results of this piece of research were reflected in the ‘post-doctoral work “Beitrag zur ethnischen Anthropologie der Albaner” [Contribution to the Albanians’ ethnic anthropology], which was defended at the Department of Anthropology and Human Genetics of the “Johannes Gutenberg” University of Mainz.   

Aren’t the above arguments enough for the academicians’ attention to my candidacy for the “Associated Academician” title for the first Albanian anthropologist? I don’t know if the other candidate met at least one of the above criteria, to consider himself an anthropologist, for real.

To tell the truth, after the vote in the Section, where the result “overturned” in favour of the other candidate, some friends recommended that I quit any other candidacy and address the media with a civic protest for the Academy’s failure to apply the selection criteria for the candidates in competition and the way the voting took place. I did not accept this offer, because I continue remaining convinced that the “Academician” title belongs to professors who have outstanding contribution to the respective field.

But, the ‘surprise’ happened after the voting in the Section when I was clearly told that “I had to lobby to win”!   As far as I am aware, lobbying makes sense in other fields such as politics, economy etc. but never in the award of scientific titles. What’s worse, this was a common practice, applied for a long time in competing for titles at the Academy of Sciences! However, I accepted the “challenge” with regret and look what happened! Some of the academicians said “we have promised to the other candidate” [Prof. Shaban Sinani], but I am convinced without consulting the respective files! Undoubtedly, this is first of all an issue of academic logic and ethics and then a legal and administrative issue. And with this, I am sorry to say it, it seems like it is “intentionally” being sought to hide the manipulation and violations of academic ethics and logic behind legal justifications and formal regulations.

In addition, I would say that this logic and academic confrontation becomes necessary especially under the current conditions of Albanian science environment, where, unfortunately, as has earlier happened in almost all East European countries, the naming of “anthropology” has come “into fashion” even in Albania. There are some literary scholars, but even philosophers, historians, literary critics and scholars of different backgrounds and schooling in Albania, who, when becoming public personalities or gaining media popularity, they more and more mention anthropology in their articles. Many of them are urged to introduce themselves as “anthropologists” or “culturologists” only by trying to manipulate any common knowledge on the human nature, culture and the society. In these cases, the frequent appearance of “anthropologists” in the post-communist period bears eloquent testimony to the use of a disciplinary naming as an instrument of “differentiating” in a still fragile field of the redistribution of other academic spheres such as anthropology.

However, ever since anthropology was also heard in Albania (and I am the first one to deal with this field), these ‘so-called’ anthropologists seem to have been dealing with anthropology for a long time without even knowing its meaning well. They simply think that adding the “anthropological” term to themselves or their literary or folkloric writings, they will be considered anthropologists, or that their work will be considered anthropology. However, they are not to blame for the “main fault,” but it is the leaders of the Academy of Sciences, who when announcing “Associated academician” job vacancy in the field of Anthropology ignored decades-long achievements of Albanian anthropologists.

Let there be an intellectual debate at the Albanian Academy of Sciences, with the participation of all real Albanian anthropologists (and we have such, even internationally acclaimed ones) and let Prof. Sinani tell us about his “remarkable” achievements in this field.

* * *

Regarding the above, I think the March 6 voting was immoral, illogical and even illegal in the selection of “Associated Academicians” because, it seems that academicians who appreciate logic and the academic figure must have remained a “minority” and they don’t have to be “accomplices” to the responsibilities stemming from this new manipulation.

Some time, I hope this happens as soon as possible, the ‘bomb’ will explode and the series of “geniuses” of the new Albanian science, together with their proponents in the chairmanship at the Albanian Academy of Sciences, will collapse. Only then, will we be able to remind of: where were we not to prevent the “plunging” of this elite institution into the swamp of the “neighborhood of mad people”!


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 8, 2017 16:20