Armenian Identity in a Changing World

Series: Armenian Studies Series. 8
Availability: Out of stock
Published: 2006
Page #: xvi + 408
Size: 6x9
ISBN: 1-56859-185-3
bibliography, index

Quick Overview

The 16 chapters and 67 subchapters of the book are composed as the main and the forking paths of different ages and lengths that eventually compose the park/garden of the Armenian identity. This park-identity model is outlined in the Preface.
We start with the path that defines the four types of genealogical national trees or models of national-identity formation correlating with the Russian, Armenian, Georgian, and Azerbaijani approaches to history and identity.

The second and the third paths discuss the strategies of naming and renaming as a kind of “semiotic nationalism” both in medieval and modern times. The fourth path observes a wide spectrum of language nationalism – from language policies to the “alphabet identity” and cult of translation and books in the present-day Armenia.

The focus of the fifth, the musical, path is the r‘abiz musical style, which has grown into a characteristic of social stratification and into an identity factor.
The sixth path discusses the many aspects of faith in Armenia, from the adoption of Christianity early in the fourth century to ethnoprotective mechanisms of national survival and modern neo-paganism.
In the seventh path, which deals with the tradition-oriented aspects of Armenianness, an Armenian nationalism is supposed to be constructed in early medieval times to be resurrected in 11th-12th and later in 18th-19th centuries.

The eighth path tries to reveal the hidden archaic society under the modern rhetoric – both Soviet and post-Soviet. In particular, the imagined and the real Soviet society are discussed in the context of Armenian culture and identity.

The next two paths discuss the royal code in Armenia in a wider context of the mythology of Soviet and post-Soviet leaders.
The eleventh path discusses the national/social rallies in Yerevan in the late-1980s (the Gharabagh movement) as a kind of festival and tries to make political/cultural predictions on the base of the changes in the social structure before, during, and after this political “festival.”
The twelfth path discusses the roots and the development of the Gharabagh conflict in the context of the “culture” of violence in Armenia and Azerbaijan, which is outlined in a wider context of the typology of aggression and national violence in the former USSR. A special forking path also observes the paradoxes of the ecological movement, its development from the fight for clean environment into ethnic cleansings.

The thirteenth and fourteenth paths are both discussing memory as nation-sustaining factor. The different aspects of memory activation and manipulation are shown in case studies of such national-identity key symbols as monuments and museums.
The last two paths discuss the different aspects of the dispersion of the Armenians: its historical, psychological, cultural, and symbolic manifestations. The last pages are dedicated to the curious “fate” of Armenians (doomed to be on the shifting borderline between East and West), and the cost of being “in between.”

The Epilogue sums up this “walk” in the park/garden of Armenian identity, and considers the possibility that it can be transformed either into a blossoming garden or into a dead-ended labyrinth.


Levon Abrahamian

Born in 1947, was educated at the Yerevan State University (Dept. Physics, M.Sc., 1970) and the Institute of Ethnography, Academy of Sciences of the USSR, in Moscow (Cultural Anthropology, Ph.D., 1978). Since 1978 Abrahamian works as a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia. Presently he heads the Department of Contemporary Anthropological Studies at the same Institute. In 2006 he was elected Corresponding Member of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia. Since 1990 Abrahamian teaches different courses of Cultural/Social Anthropology at the Yerevan State University. He has taught also at the University of Pittsburgh (1994), University of California at Berkeley (William Saroyan Professor of Armenian Studies, 1997), and Columbia University (2001). Areas of interest: Armenian Traditional and Contemporary Anthropology, Comparative Mythology, Political Anthropology, and Anthropology of Art. Abrahamian is author of more than 150 publications on various aspects of cultural anthropology and art criticism including four books: "Primitive Festival and Mythology" (Yerevan: Acad. Sci. of Arm. SSR Press, 1983, in Russian); "Armenian Folk Arts, Culture, and Identity" (co-editor: Nancy Sweezy. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2001); "Conversations Near a Tree" (Moscow: Languages of Slavonic Cultures, 2005, in Russian); "Armenian Identity in a Changing World" (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda , 2006).

Prefatory Remarks by Marc Nichanian
A Note on Transliteration

The Forking Paths of Armenian Identity 1


The Path of Ancestors
Four Types of Genealogical National Trees 7
The Path of Selection 8
The Path toward the Roots 10
The Path of Prestige 12
The Path toward Everywhere 16
The Shortened and the Lengthened Paths 22


The Path of Naming
Naming As Nation Building 27
The Path of Demiurges 27
The Path of Name Magic 31
The Forking Path of Differentiation 36


The Path of Renaming
Recall/Forget Your Name: Strategies of Renaming 45
The Path of Symbolic Return 45
The Forking Path of Name Anarchy 51
The Forking Path of Faking 53
The Circling Path of Manipulations with Time 56


The Path of Language
Mother Tongue and the Cult of Translation 65
The Original Path of Mother Tongue 65
The Forking Path of Purism 72
The Forking Path of Bilingualism 77
The Forking Path of “Alphabet Identity” 79
The Path of Translators 84
The Forking Path in the Direction of the Path of Rebellion
and Festival 88


The Path of Music
The Sensitive Ear of Musical Identity and the All-devouring
R'abiz 93
The Path of Unheard Music 93
The Path of Komitas 96
The Path of R'abiz 97


The Path of Faith
1700 Years of Christianity and the Pagan Armenian-
Christians 111
The Path of Pioneers 111
The Path of the “Armenian-Christians” 114
The Parallel Paths of Grigor the Illuminator and the Virgins
The Forking Paths of the Two Natures That Eventually Meet
Again 121
The Path of Rejection and Ethnic Survival 125
The Path toward the Temple 128
The Misty Path of Celebration 133


The Path of Tradition
Identity Forged by Everyday Life 137
Another Path of Pioneers 137
The Path of a “Nation-Family” 145
The Path toward Home 148
The Path of Dignity and Shame 155
The Forking Path of Greetings 161


The Path back to Prehistory
Archaic Society in Modern Disguise 171
The Path of Communist Initiation 171
The Path of the Thunderer Gods 175
The Path of Fear 179
The Forking Path toward the Feudal Future 182


The Path of Tyrants and Fools
Every Nation Deserves Its Ruler 191
The Paired Father-Son Path 191
Successive Paths of the Father and the Son 193
Back to the Paired Path? 194


The Royal Path
The Return of the King 205
The Original Path of the King-God 205
The Path of the President-Catholicos 207
The Forking Path of the Phallic King 212


The Path of Rebellion and Festival
The Gharabagh Rallies in Anthropological Perspective 217
The Many Hidden Paths of the Political Festival 217
The Path of the Carnival Civil Society 224
The Two Forking Paths Running from the Square 235


The Path of Violence
The Gharabagh Conflict: A Fight for Symmetry and
Asymmetry 247
The Path of Structural Violence 248
The Path of Constructed Violence 250
The "Green" Path of Violence 253
The Nine Months Long Path of Asymmetry 255
The Path of Symbolic Violence 264


The Path Decorated with Statues
Fighting with Memory and Monuments 273
The Path of Pre-Monuments 273
The Path of Reinterpretation 276
The Path of Monument-Crushers 279
The Path of Moderate Executioners 283
The Path of Substitutes 292
The Path of the Dead 297


The Path of Memory
Museum As a Mirror and Generator of Identity 305
The Path from Temple to Museum 305
The Path of Collectors 308
The Path from Museum to Temple 310
The Path of Competition 311
The Path of Cooperation 315
The Path of the Monument-Museum 318


The Path of Dispersion
Divided Armenians 323
The Forking Paths of Homeland and Diaspora 323
Two Paths That Were Always Divided 326
The Paths of Prudence and Rebelliousness 331
The Path of Reunion 335


The Path of Mediators
Armenia and Armenians between East and West 345

A Garden or a Labyrinth? 353

Bibliography 357
Index 391

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