Congratulations to Associate Teaching Professor of Italian Eda Derhemi who has been awarded a 2022 HRI Summer Faculty Research Fellowship! Every year, the Humanities Research Institute (HRI) awards this prestigious fellowship to two specialized and two tenure-line faculty in the Humanities and the Humanistic Social Sciences on campus to help them maximize the summer for research in service of their ongoing professional development.

Dr. Derhemi’s summer project focuses on Arvanitika, an old variety of Albanian which has been used in the territory of today’s Greece as a result of migrations in the 12th and 13th centuries. Dr. Derhemi will conduct fieldwork in the small mountainous village of Zeriki (Zeriq), near Livadhia (Λειβαδιά) in Viotia (Βοιωτία), inhabited only in summers by a few old people. She will work with two elderly sisters, Maria, now 91 years old, and Pagona, 89, who decided to move in together after the deaths of their husbands. Not only have these two speakers continued to preserve the Arvanitika they once used to speak, but the two of them recreate, on a small scale, an actual “community” of Arvanitika speakers, which is impossible to find anywhere else in Greece today. Dr. Derhemi plans to systematically record these speakers' narratives about the history of the village, the people, and the use of their language when Arvanitika was still spoken in the community. She plans to trace the development of the negative linguistic attitudes among Arvanites and make sense of the problematic expression “having an empty ethnicity”, often used to describe speakers of Arvanitika.

Arvanitika is classified as “severely endangered” in the Atlas of World Languages in Danger and, if the situation does not change, might only have a few decades left before its extinction. Its endangerment and lack of official recognition in Greece make it urgent to find out more about the practices and perspectives of older speakers like Maria and Pagona before the language and the historical memory die with the last speakers. 

Congratulations and all the best for this important work, Professor Derhemi!