Constructing the post-Soviet Armenian National Habitus: The Armenian Genocide and Contested Imaginations of Armenianness

  • Author / Creator
    Beurki Beukian, Sevan
  • Armenians around the world commemorated the centennial of the Armenian Genocide in 2015, underscoring how compelling it is to consider contemporary expressions of their identity in relation to collective traumatic memory. This study examines the impact of the collective memory of the Genocide on the discursive shifts in Armenian national identity from 1988 until 2013. Inspired by Bourdieu’s concept of habitus and critical discourse analysis, the theoretical framework of the dissertation links national habitus to the collective memory and trauma and the gendered constructions of the nation state. The main research question guiding this study is: How is ‘Armenianness' constructed in the period 1988-2013? A secondary research question examined is: Has the dominant discourse on ‘Armenianness’ shifted or changed in this period, and if so, how and why? This study identifies four main pillars of Armenian collective identity in the contested construction of the discourse of ‘Armenianness’: 1) the place of women and constructions of femininity; 2) the 1988 movement in Armenia; 3) diaspora-homeland relations; and 4), Turkey-Armenia relations. Using discourse analysis to analyze 48 semi-structured interviews conducted in Armenia and Karabakh in 2011 and other ‘texts’ such as government documents, speeches, videos, and documentaries, the case of Armenia is examined not only horizontally across time, but also across several issues that shape the political and social environment of post-Soviet Armenia. The memory of the Armenian Genocide is a strongly unifying factor that shapes the discourse of ‘us’ that makes Armenians feel part of a community, creating a strong sense of belonging to the Armenian nation despite the historical, social, ideological, and cultural differences that shape the Armenian habituses. The emotional and traumatic impact of the Genocide (through survival stories and transmission) has shaped the habits of Armenians. As such, the Genocide of 1915 can be understood in many ways as the beginning of contemporary Armenian history that has shifted discourses around the conception of Armenianness for both the Armenian diasporas and the Armenians in Armenia, especially after 1988 for the latter. The fieldwork and analysis of all collected data reveal the importance of the time of 1915 for Armenians. But this seemingly unifiying memory is overshadowed by, the striking complexities of difference found in Armenia and Karabakh. The main argument of the dissertation is that the traumatic collective memory of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 directly and indirectly shapes the shifts in expressions of ‘Armenianness' in Armenian national habitus(es) from 1988 until 2013 through its link with the four main pillars of Armenian identity. This link can be understood in a triangular relationship between Nagorno-Karabakh/Armenia-Turkey relations/and the traumatic memory of 1915. It seems that the continued denial of the Turkish government of their ancestor’s crimes continues to weigh heavily on the Armenian psyche. Hence, the time of 1915 consciously and unconsciously continues to shape the process of Armenian national habituses.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Marples, David R. (History and Classics)
    • MacDonald, David (Political Science, University of Guelph)
    • Harder, Lois (Political Science)
    • Thorlakson, Lori (Political Science)