Tag Archive | Religion

Jiray: Religion, Identity and the Diaspora

If answering any theoretical questions about diaspora communities is difficult, imagine trying to locate those communities. It is easy enough to find individual members, to ask them about their lives, and to try to shed some light on the elusive diaspora identity (if such a thing can be singled out and studied). If you’re lucky, maybe they see themselves as part of that immensely complex community. Maybe that connection lies only in the label others place on them. While these conversations have been immensely helpful in gaining a keener understanding of Armenian identity within the diaspora, especially in light of the Karabakh conflict, they have left something to be desired. Where are these identities being formed? Reformulated? Maintained? What I have gathered from conversations with individuals in the Armenian diaspora is that there is a constant sense of searching, of transition, of adaptation. This is not to say that a sense of “home” can never be achieved. Rather, that sense of home is constantly being negotiated within the past, present, and future.

As I’ve learned over the past month, the role of the anthropologist is not simply to have conversations. Some of the most important elements in any ethnographic project come from participant observation. Within this framework my line of questioning has evolved from “Who do I talk to about the Karabakh conflict and Armenian identity within the diaspora?” to “Where are these identities being constructed and reconstructed?” and “How do I (physically and geographically) contextualize these experiences?” These questions became all the more complicated when, in a phone interview, I asked a man if he knew of any expatriate populations, or had a personal relationship with expats in his area? He told me Read More…


Jiray: Identity in Nagorno-Karabakh

My name is Jiray and I am a senior at Bennington where I study anthropology. My senior work has taken the shape of a thesis on the Nagorno-Karabakh War (fought between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the late 80s/early 90s). Here is where things get interesting! Originally, I had planned to travel to Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) for my independent study in order to interview Karabakhtsis (Armenian term for people who live in NKR) on Armenian social identity (i.e. various traditions and practices that make Armenians in distinct form others). Unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances, I was unable to travel to Armenia or NKR. In light of those changes, I will be undertaking my independent study in Rhode Island, where I am from.

photo 2 (3) In many ways this adjustment has been an ongoing challenge, but in the week that I’ve spent preparing my reoriented IS, I realized a number of really important things I may have taken for granted had my plans gone accordingly. In conversations with Noah and Mirka, I realized that doing participant observation amongst Armenians (especially in disparate places like NKR and the northeast United States) begs the question: where does one observe a diaspora community? What common denominator ties these geographically separated populations together? Is it possible to link observations and interviews done in an Armenian community in Providence, RI to the lived experience of those Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh?

I realized that, as Razmik Panossian puts it, the Armenian “nation” is Read More…