Cummings Foundation Grant Recipient

ARMENIAN DIASPORA(S) IN MOTION: Places, Stakeholders and Practices in the 21st Century ~ Thursday and Friday, March 14-15, 2024

Alain Navarra de Borgia-Navassartian Anouche Der Sarkissian Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Bibliotheque Nubar Boris Adjemian Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Centre de recherches historiques (CRH) Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) Gayane Shagoyan Hyestart Institut Convergences Migrations (CI Migration) James Cohen Khachig Tölölyan Michel Bruneau Shushan Karapetian Société des études arméniennes (SEA) Sossie Kasparian Stéphane De Tapia Stéphane Dufoix Taline Ter Minassian USC Institute of Armenian Studies Yann Scioldo-Zürcher

Since diaspora studies emerged in the 1980s, the Armenian dispersion has played a prominent role in the scholarly literature seeking to understand and classify the nature, forms, and effects of diasporas as social formations. Although the notion of diaspora is multifaceted – changing based on the cases observed, criteria retained, disciplinary fields, and its dissemination and use by various actors (Hovanessian, 1998; Brubaker, 2005; Dufoix, 2011) – the Armenian experience, along with the Greek and Jewish cases, is widely discussed in works attempting to establish typologies of uprooted communities (Cohen, 1997; Bruneau, 1995, 2022; Sheffer, 2003; Tölölyan, 1996) as well as in the efforts to compare the diasporas considered paradigmatic (Bruneau et al., 2007; Hovannisian and Myers, 1999).

Among the criteria associated with the Armenian case, the longevity of the dispersion (Bruneau, 2007; Tölölyan, 2005; Panossian, 2006), a shared collective memory (Safran, 1991), and the vitality of an active minority that relies on old and conservative institutions (Ter Minassian, 1997; Tölölyan, 2000) are often cited. They help maintain transnational networks and nurture an “imagined community”, as well as a wished-for cohesion, especially in moments of converging mobilizations (Tölölyan, 1996).

However, 40 years after the rise of diaspora studies, one has to admit that far from offering a stable paradigm, the Armenian diaspora (an expression that should be used in the plural) has undergone numerous transformations. This is partly due to the ebb and flow of geopolitics, new technological developments, and socio-economic changes in the historical centers of the Armenian presence.

With the end of the Soviet Union, new types of migration surfaced. Emigration from the Republic of Armenia – often perceived, justly or unjustly, as a “bleeding wound” – has profoundly changed the face of the diaspora. What is more, the last three decades have seen intensified processes of permanent or temporary “return” migration, reshaping the diaspora, Armenia, the ties between them, and leading to new modes of life in-between. By the same token, new communities have sprung up in places that were not traditional Armenian settlements. Conversely, regions that had been home to genocide refugees and their descendants, and that had grown into full-blown epicenters of the “Armenian transnation”, have gradually or abruptly been emptied of their Armenian population in the wake of political crises, wars and economic instability (Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Syria). Such recent developments call for a reassessment of the notions of homeland(s), home(s) and belonging(s).

Similarly, territories with a long-standing Armenian presence, dating back to the 1920s (France, Belgium) or even the end of the 19th century (United States), have witnessed the arrival of new cohorts of Armenian immigrants hailing from new regions (Armenia, the Caucasus, and Russia after the end of the USSR, Syria after 2011), with heterogeneous socio-economic profiles. The settlement of these newly-arrived co-ethnics has paved the way for an ethno-cultural “replenishment” (Jimenez, 2010), revitalizing traditional community structures (schools, media, religious and political organizations, etc.). However, it has also given rise to new problems and questions at the individual and institutional levels, reshaping existing diasporic dynamics and leading to intra-group conflict, competition, mutual ignorance, or defiance, as noted by observers and stakeholders of the Armenian diaspora.

While new diasporic communities are emerging, the historical loci of Armenian presence have lost their institutional resources and experienced new forms of member dispersal, fueling a declinist discourse centered on the haunting theme of “identity dilution” (Hovanessian, 2007). Simultaneously, voices that had previously been absent, ignored or imperceptible are gaining momentum, renewing the agenda of “ethno-political entrepreneurs,” and reinventing the repertoire of diasporic mobilization, which can take the form of aid and support for the disputed region of Karabagh, and can sometimes challenge or undermine traditional community structures, actors, and practices.

Boris Adjemian: AGBU Nubar library, CRH-EHESS, Institut Convergences Migrations
Anouche Der Sarkissian: Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW, Institut Convergences Migrations
Alain Navarra de Borgia-Navassartian: University of Bologna
Yann Scioldo-Zürcher: CNRS, CRH-EHESS, Institut Convergences Migrations

Boris Adjemian: AGBU Nubar library, CRH-EHESS, Institut Convergences Migrations)
Michel Bruneau: CNRS
James Cohen: Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW
Anouche Der Sarkissian: Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW, Institut Convergences Migrations
Stéphane De Tapia: Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, UMR 7043
Stéphane Dufoix: Paris Nanterre, Sophiapol
Shushan Karapetian: USC Institute of Armenian Studies
Sossie Kasparian: University of Stirling
Alain Navarra de Borgia-Navassartian: University of Bologna
Yann Scioldo-Zürcher: CNRS, CRH-EHESS, Institut Convergences Migrations
Gayane Shagoyan: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography in Yerevan
Taline Ter Minassian: Institut national des langues orientales, CREE

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