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Please join the Harriman Institute for a book talk with Lea Ypi, author of Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History. Moderated by Valentina Izmirlieva, Director of the Harriman Institute.
Lea Ypi grew up in one of the most isolated countries on earth, a place where communist ideals had officially replaced religion. Albania, the last Stalinist outpost in Europe, was almost impossible to visit, almost impossible to leave. It was a place of queuing and scarcity, of political executions and secret police. To Lea, it was home. People were equal, neighbours helped each other, and children were expected to build a better world. There was community and hope. Then, in December 1990, everything changed. The statues of Stalin and Hoxha were toppled. Almost overnight, people could vote freely, wear what they liked and worship as they wished. There was no longer anything to fear from prying ears. But factories shut, jobs disappeared and thousands fled to Italy on crowded ships, only to be sent back. Predatory pyramid schemes eventually bankrupted the country, leading to violent conflict. As one generation’s aspirations became another’s disillusionment, and as her own family’s secrets were revealed, Lea found herself questioning what freedom really meant. Free is an engrossing memoir of coming of age amid political upheaval. With acute insight and wit, Lea Ypi traces the limits of progress and the burden of the past, illuminating the spaces between ideals and reality, and the hopes and fears of people pulled up by the sweep of history.
Lea Ypi is Professor in Political Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science and an Honorary Professor in Philosophy at the Australian National University. A native of Albania, she has degrees in Philosophy and in Literature from the University of Rome La Sapienza, a PhD from the European University Institute and was a Post-Doctoral Prize Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford University. She is the author of Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency, The Meaning of Partisanship (with Jonathan White), and The Architectonic of Reason, all published by Oxford University Press. Her latest book, a philosophical memoir entitled Free: Coming of Age at the End of History, published by Penguin Press in the UK and W.W. Norton & Company in North America, won the 2022 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Slightly Foxed First Biography Prize and is being translated into more than twenty languages. Her academic work has been recognised with the British Academy Prize for Excellence in Political Science and the Leverhulme Prize for Outstanding Research Achievement. She coedits The Journal of Political Philosophy and occasionally writes for The Guardian.