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University of Michigan Workshop Continues Assessment of the State of Armenian Studies
ANN ARBOR, MICH., Dec. 22, 2011
Leading experts in Armenian Studies from around the world recently gathered at the University of Michigan to assess the current state of Armenian Studies in academic institutions in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. The cross-disciplinary meeting took place from October 14 - 16, 2011, as part of the ongoing project to assess "The State of Armenian Studies." The gathering was organized by the Armenian Studies Program of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and convened parallel to events marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the first endowed chair in Armenian studies at the University in 1981 and of the Program itself.
The special project has been able to gather a huge amount of information on Armenian studies and had made that information available to the participants for their analysis and comments.
Ambitious in its scope, the three-day meeting sought to have the input of these scholars to survey a wide array of programs, activities and publications in Armenian studies over the last 30 years throughout the world, not including Armenia. The research team at the University had prepared lists of books published in French, German, Farsi, English, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, and Russian; the gathering made an general assessment of publishing interests and trends and laid the groundwork to complete even more extensive surveys of works published in Armenian, Polish and other languages. The meeting sought to bring to light all of the undergraduate and graduate courses that have been offered in Armenian Studies over the last decade in order to better grasp how the next generation of scholars is being trained, and to make recommendations regarding what kinds of courses need to be offered in the future. The continuing relationships between Armenian studies as it stands in the university system and other institutions outside of that system - such as research centers, and archival and cultural organizations - were also surveyed and discussed. Additional reports were prepared separately to address the state of the field regionally, such a in the US, in Europe and in the Middle East.
The goal of the meeting was to gain a more complete understanding of recent advances in scholarship relevant to the field as well as to survey avenues for future research, to discuss the relationship between Armenian Studies programs and the general public, to brainstorm how to attract both established professors already in the university as well as new students, and to ensure that scholars in Armenian Studies continue to produce work that is cutting-edge in terms of recent methodological and theoretical developments within greater academia.
The director of ASP, Gerard Libaridian, has been at the helm of the State of Armenian Studies Project for the last four years, and the recent gathering of scholars to discuss the findings of the project represents a milestone - but by no means an endpoint - in the ongoing project. Most recently, scholars were invited to respond to a series of questions about various dimensions of Armenian Studies. All respondents to the questionnaire were invited to continue the discussion at U-M in Ann Arbor. The participants included many seminal and active figures in the field, such as Robert Thompson, Ara Sanjian, Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Peter Cowe, Susan Pattie, Sergio La Porta, Robert Hewsen, Khachig Tololyan, Asbed Kotchikian, and Marc Mamigonian, as well as the faculty of ASP at U-M: Kathryn Babayan, Kevork Bardakjian, Ronald Suny, and Gerard Libaridian. Post-doctoral fellows and graduate students associated with ASP at U-M also participated in the discussion. Many others from around the world had participated in the preparation of the charts, lists, and special reports.
Generally, organizations that are dedicated to one academic discipline will assess overall trends in scholarship and make recommendations for future research and pedagogical practices every five to ten years. The problem, however, is that Armenian Studies is not a discipline - that is, a specific methodological approach to train a certain type of scholar, such as a historian, literary critic, anthropologist, sociologist, or political scientist - but rather a field related to every aspect of Armenian life past, present, and future. This is not a weakness of Armenian Studies, but is generally believed to be a strength of the field, as it is informed and shaped by many different kinds of scholars working together across multiple disciplines to create new bodies of knowledge. The flourishing of Armenian studies programs, however, has merited a report on par with what other disciplines produce every five to ten years. To this end, the meeting concluded with preliminary plans to publish a report on the state of Armenian Studies which could be put to good use by scholars around the world, as well as serve to inform the general public of what topics are of utmost importance today in Armenian Studies, how to continue to grow the field, what still needs to be done, and why it matters within and beyond academia.
The project is co-sponsored by the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, based in Belmont, Mass., and the Society for Armenian Studies, currently chaired by Professor Bardakjian.