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(Re)Constructing Armenia in Lebanon and Syria

(Re)Constructing Armenia in Lebanon and Syria: Ethno-Cultural Diversity and the State in the Aftermath of a Refugee Crisis

Nicola Migliorino
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    (Re)Constructing Armenia in Lebanon and Syria
    Book Description:

    For almost nine decades, since their mass-resettlement to the Levant in the wake of the Genocide and First World War, the Armenian communities of Lebanon and Syria appear to have successfully maintained a distinct identity as an ethno-culturally diverse group, in spite of representing a small non-Arab and Christian minority within a very different, mostly Arab and Muslim environment. The author shows that, while in Lebanon the state has facilitated the development of an extensive and effective system of Armenian ethno-cultural preservation, in Syria the emergence of centralizing, authoritarian regimes in the 1950s and 1960s has severely damaged the autonomy and cultural diversity of the Armenian community. Since 1970, the coming to power of the Asad family has contributed to a partial recovery of Armenian ethno-cultural diversity, as the community seems to have developed some form of tacit arrangement with the regime. In Lebanon, on the other hand, the Armenian community suffered the consequences of the recurrent breakdown of the consociational arrangement that regulates public life. In both cases the survival of Armenian cultural distinctiveness seems to be connected, rather incidentally, with the continuing 'search for legitimacy' of the state.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-057-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xii-xiv)
    Nicola Migliorino
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    This book is about the experience of the Armenian people as a culturally diverse community settled in Lebanon and Syria. The ideas behind it have taken shape over a long period of time, as I repeatedly came across Armenians and Armenian culture during travels and a number of stays in Lebanon and Syria. Of those repeated encounters I recall two initial observations. The first was that the Armenians appeared to me to be remarkably ‘different’ people compared to the majority: Christians of a discrete faith and non-Arab in a prevailingly Arab and Islamic world, they could speak their non-Semitic language,...

  7. 1 The Origins of the Armenian Presence in Lebanon and Syria: A Brief Historical Account
    (pp. 7-44)

    Why are there Armenian communities in Lebanon and Syria? Under what circumstances have they been formed? Any attempt to answer these questions should start from the fact that the Armenian people originated and developed in a geographical region overlapping the periphery of the contemporary political Middle East.¹ Large parts of what is commonly described as historical Armenia fall within the borders of contemporary Turkey and Iran. The history of the Armenian people is thus deeply intertwined with some of the most significant facts of the history of the region: these facts have at times taken the Armenians away from their...

  8. 2 (Re)constructing Armenia: The Armenians in Lebanon and Syria during the Mandate
    (pp. 45-88)

    At the turn of the 1920s the Armenians of the Levant were largely a community of refugees. Cutting across all layers and backgrounds of Armenian society, the tragedy of war and the Genocide had shattered the foundations of virtually all aspects of the life of the Armenian survivors as it was known before 1914. The damage suffered by the survivors had several dimensions. At the personal level the Genocide produced a gender-imbalanced community of broken families: survivors had lost parents, spouses, children, relatives, with adult men being on top of the list of those missing. Thousands of children had lost...

  9. 3 Coping with Political Change: The Armenians in Lebanon and Syria during the First Two Decades of Independence (1946–1967)
    (pp. 89-146)

    By the time the last French troops left the Levant in 1946 the Armenians were not an alien community in Lebanon and Syria any longer. Many of them were still living in refugee camps on the edge of towns, or could hardly communicate in Arabic, but the continuation of the Armenian presence in the cities and villages of the Levant had become a broadly acceptedfait accompliand the community had found ways to integrate itself in the economy and society of the region. The Armenian population had also grown demographically: figures at the closing of the Mandate put the...

  10. 4 War, Migration, and Strategies of Survival: The Armenians between the Collapse of the Lebanese State and the Construction of Asad’s Syria (1967–1989)
    (pp. 147-178)

    By the second half of the 1960s Lebanon and Syria represented two sharply contrasting paradigms of the accommodation of Armenian diversity in the countries of the Middle East. From an Armenian point of view, Lebanon could be undoubtedly regarded as a success story. The process of ‘reconstruction of the Armenian world’, as described earlier in this book, had proceeded to an extent and with a pace unparalleled in the region. Lebanon had become the new home for a fully developed system of communal institutions meant to organise and promote Armenian life, and Beirut had grown into a true capital of...

  11. 5 Difficult Recovery and Uncertain Future: The Armenians in Lebanon and Syria in the 1990s and Beyond
    (pp. 179-220)

    The 1990s and the first half of the 2000s have appeared to be a period of uncertainty about the fate of Armenian cultural diversity in the Levant. Uncertainty has been in part fuelled by the conditions of the Lebanese and Syrian economies: the difficult economic recovery of post-war Lebanon and the economic crisis that has variably affected Syria since the second half of the 1980s have taken their toll on the Armenian communities of the two countries, contributed to the phenomenon of migration, and raised questions about the financial sustainability of the system of Armenian communal institutions.

    In Lebanon, uncertainty...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 221-223)

    This book set out to examine the experience of the Armenian communities in Lebanon and Syria from the 1920s to the present. Its key interests of enquiry have stemmed from the observation that the Armenians appear to have successfully maintained, for more than eight decades since their mass-resettlement in the Levant, a distinct identity as an ethno-culturally diverse group, in spite of being a relatively small minority within a very different, mostly Arab environment. While not excluding other factors, this work has argued that the comparative success of the community in preserving its cultural distinctiveness must be understood in close...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 224-237)
  14. Index
    (pp. 238-242)