Conference to Highlight 35 Years of Armenian Studies at UCLA

The local organizing committee for the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Society for Armenian Studies has been busy for months putting together the details of the planned three-day conference titled “Armenian Studies at a Threshold” (March 26-28, 2009) at UCLA and the celebratory banquet on the evening of Saturday, March 28 at the Taglyan Cultural Center in Hollywood where more than 400 guests are expected. Admission to the conference sessions is free to the public and, as always, all are welcome.

This piece is the third on the history of the Society for Armenian Studies and its connection with Armenian studies programs in the United States. Here I shall complete the listing of Armenian chairs and programs established in the 1980s and cover the1990s as well, leaving the first decade of the 21st century to next time. In the 1980s two more chairs were established. The Haig and Isabel Berberian Endowed Chair in Armenian Studies at California State University, Fresno was established in 1988. Its first holder was Professor Dickran Kouymjian who held the position until his retirement in 2008. The Chair was unoccupied during the academic year 2008/9. The new occupant, as of Fall 2009, will be Dr. Sergio La Porta.

In 1989, the Arthur H. Dadian and Ara Oztemel Chair of Armenian Art and Architectural History, was established at Tufts University and its holder until the present has been Prof. Lucy Der Manuelian.

We may not leave the 1980s behind without speaking of the Armenian studies program at the California State University, Northridge. This was the result of the unusual dedication of one individual, Ms. Hermine Mahseredjian, who began with one course in Armenian language in 1983 in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, and developed a full-blown Armenian studies program in the course of 20 some years ‘s her efforts fully supported by the university. Upon her retirement in 2006, her position as Director of Armenian studies at CSUN was taken over by Prof. Vahram Shemmassian.

As in many other instances, Armenian courses had been taught at the University of California, Berkeley since the early 1960s, the first endowed program, the William Saroyan Visiting Professor of Armenian Studies, was established in 1995. The first academics to teach in this program were UCLA’s Prof. Richard Hovannisian (1995-1996), then Prof. Dickran Kouymjian CSU Fresno (1996-1997), followed by other temporary appointmen’s of visiting faculty from institutions in the United States and from abroad. In 1998, the William Saroyan Visiting Professorship became a full-time position and Prof. Stephan Astourian was appointed Executive Director of the Armenian Studies Program and Assistant Adjunct Professor of History in July 2002.

In 1998 a second chair in Armenian studies was established at Tufts University. This was the Jafferian-Darakjian Chair of Armenian History and its holder has been Prof. Ina Baghdiantz McCabe.

Also in 1998, the Nikit and Eleanora Ordjanian Visiting Professor of Armenian Studies position was established at Columbia University. Here are the names of the visiting scholars: Ara Sarafian, Khachig Tololyan, Robert H. Hewsen, Helen Evans, Levon Abrahamian, Seta Dadoyan, Roberta Ervine, George Bournoutian, Rachel Goshgarian and, currently, Vardan Azatyan.

Again in 1998, the Friends of UCLA Armenian Language and Culture was established as a support group of the Narekatsi Chair one of its goals being the establishing of a visiting professorship in Armenian studies in order to diversify the range of courses offered at UCLA as a basis for the creation of an Armenian Studies Major. In the past five years, this organization has been sponsoring visiting faculty for one quarter only per academic year and the program has been successful. The visiting scholars have been Levon Chookaszian (art history), Lucina Agbabian Hubbard and Ankica Petrovic (music), Alina Ayvazian (archaeology), Levon Abrahamian (anthropology) and the newest will be Grigor Areshyan (archaeology).

At this point I would like to return to the Society for Armenian Studies which has always been supportive of the scholars and the programs they control, and mention the first day of the forthcoming international conference at UCLA. The first day is Thursday, March 26. There will be three sessions to be held consecutively from 1p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Royce 314. The first session is titled Medieval Literature and the Arts. The participants will be Andrea Scala (University of Milan), Robert Thomson (Oxford University, Emeritus) and Sona Haroutyunian (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice). The session will be chaired by Theo von Lint (Oxford University).

The second session is titled Medieval History and Culture. The participants will be Sergio La Porta (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Sara Nur Yildiz (Bilgi University, Istanbul), Tom Sinclair (University of Cyprus). The session will be chaired by Anne Elizabeth Redgate (Newcastle University).

The third session is called Researching the Contemporary Armenian Diaspora: Consolidating the Past, Situating the Future. The participants will be Sossie Kasbarian (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva), Aida Boudjikanian (Montreal), Susan Pattie (University College, London), Anny Bakalian (City University of New York), Nelida Boulghourdjian (University of Buenos Aires). Discussant: Aram Yengoyan (University of California, Davis); Chair: Khachig Tololyan (Wesleyan University).

It is hoped that these very interesting sessions where scholars from far off places will come to share their research findings with their audience will enjoy the presence of large and interested audiences. Please look at announcemen’s that detail locations and parking for the three-day conference.


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