Returning to Ararat and home at last: Western Armenian diasporan discourse on return to 'Eastern' Armenia
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 03:04 by Armen Karamanian
Centuries of division under foreign rule led to the physical and linguistic separation of the Armenian nation into an eastern and western portion. The Armenian Genocide represented the final chapter in this division as the two components diverged further apart; the eastern component becoming an independent, then Soviet Armenia, and the western component constituting Eastern Turkey as its Armenian inhabitants were exterminated and deported, with those surviving forming the diaspora. Armenia's independence in 1991 presented its mostly Western Armenian diaspora with an opportunity to return to a homeland. However, upon return, diasporans were confronted wit h a contrasting eastern narrative of 'Armenianness', unlike the Western Armenian and hybrid identities they possessed . Thirty Western Armenian returnees were interviewed in Armenia, with each returnee's journey of homecoming analysed using discourse theory to discover the presence of power during interactions between returnees and locals, and to determine the returnees' ability to alter discourse away from a dominant E astern Armenian narrative. Experiences show that returnees, unlike many of their generational predecessors, accept the Republic of Armenia as their homeland, relegating Western Armenia to symbolic history. As returnees adjust to life in Armenia , they switch their speech to Eastern Armenian as a sign of acceptance and integration. However, their past Western Armenian and diasporan identities are maintained, adding to the hybridity of their identity as a blended Spyurkahayastan t si (diaspora + Armenian of Armenia). 1 The process of homecoming for returnees is a negotiation of their past identity and the dominant E astern Armenian narrative of the homeland. This negotiation results in an acceptance of the linguistic component of the homeland's narrative, a recognition of the dominant E astern Armenian culture, and a hybridisation of their cultural identity. Armenia remains ill - prepared to welcome the diversity of the Armenian narrative presented by returnees, which in turn presents a challenge to attracting future returnees who require reasons other than patriotism to relocate to Armenia. Nevertheless, Armenia provides a home for returnees in the land not west, but east of Ararat.