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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Survivors: An Ethnographic Study of Armenian American Activism and Expression

  • Author(s): King, Melissa Ruth
  • Advisor(s): Schwenkel, Christina
  • et al.

In nationalist Armenian American youth activism and expression, the practice of memory of woundedness and genocide is conceived as a form of resistance related to claiming a particular subjectivity and identity as diasporan Armenians and as a minority group in the United States. Armenian American youth position themselves in history as remnants and freedom fighters, demanding recognition of the Armenian genocide in a "struggle for justice" that simultaneously calls for their recognition as survivors in a context of perceived denial. The tradition of activism on which this dissertation focuses has tended toward anti-assimilationism and the assumption and display of woundedness as a means of obtaining perceptibility, for it is the distinction of woundedness on which Armenian American survivorship is legitimated. The Armenian genocide and its denial are often cited as the cause of the wound, producing survivorship as a specific position to the past. Youth experience and claim survivorship through historically significant diasporan institutions that structure commemoration services, cultural events, and political protests where practices of memory are encouraged as well as in U.S. political spaces including public schools where denial and ambiguity are personally perceived. This dissertation is based on eighteen months of field research in the Los Angeles region, one of the largest populations of diasporan Armenians.

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