SUMMARY:This roundtable addresses the representation of the 2020 war in Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh, and the failure of scholars within Middle East Studies to engage with it.
The six-week war resulted in over 5,000 dead, tens of thousands of Armenians displaced - a resounding victory for Azerbaijan, and the Armenian state on the verge of implosion. The war mobilized the Armenian diaspora in unprecedented ways, and reignited the collective trauma of the 1915 genocide by the Ottoman state. Over a century of displacement of indigenous Armenians from their historic homelands was compounded by the forced exile of Artsakh/ Nagorno Karabakh Armenians in Fall 2020. Scholars of Armenian Studies (broadly speaking) were galvanised, engaged in constructing discourse and analysis, and in representing the position of the Armenians - reduced, flattened or absent from mainstream analyses. This was mostly met by silence by their colleagues within Middle East Studies. This panel seeks to explore why this was so, and to dismantle reigning hierarchies of importance as well as hegemonic prisms through which the field is studied.
Within Middle East Studies, Armenians have historically been absent, or considered outsiders and marginal. Studies were often framed around the premise that they were foreign to the region and therefore treated with suspicion, caution or exoticism; alternatively they were subsumed within broader subjects like Christians or minorities of the region. Despite great strides, primarily by historians, in grounding Armenians within Middle Eastern studies, this narrative persists. This is underpinned by a political undercurrent that depicts Armenians as outsiders: even in rooted communities like Lebanon where the Armenians are part of the political fabric, in recent years there has been a normalisation of anti-Armenian hate speech permeating the public sphere. This suggests that regardless of significant scholarship, entrenched narratives in Middle East Studies still only allow a precarious and insecure space for Armenians, as a liminal, intersectional, diasporic people.
By placing Middle East Studies in conversation with the history and recent political developments in the Caucasus, we are able to better understand these dynamics. More broadly we seek to understand the growing hegemony of different state and non-state actors in the region, not least through the Armenian experience that connects the Middle East and the Caucasus (Western Asia.) This interdisciplinary roundtable brings together historians, anthropologists, political scientists and critical theorists for a rich and textured discussion.
SPONSOR:Society for Armenian Studies (SAS)
DISCIPLINES:Intl Rltns/Aff; Intl Rltns/Aff
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Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter; Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;
Elyse Semerdjian is Professor of Islamic World/Middle Eastern history at Whitman College. She received her M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and her Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University. A specialist in early...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter; Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer;
(University of Tennessee, Knoxville)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;
(University of Birmingham)