Dr. Talar Chahinian’s book, “Stateless: The Politics of the Armenian Language in Exile,” which traces the key movements in Western Armenian literary history to explore how a stateless language sustains itself in a diasporic setting, was published this month by Syracuse University Press.
The book focuses on two centers of Western Armenian literary production following the Armenian genocide to examine the intersection of violence and art, displacement and language vitality.
By exploring the work of a post WWI Paris-based, short-lived transnational literary movement called Menk [We], “Stateless” explores how the politically violent origins of dispersion informed the aesthetic development of a new literature and the articulation of literary belonging in exile.
Dr. Chahinian, who holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UCLA, looks at the post WWII activities and publications of the Writers’ Association of Syria and Lebanon, and traces how the Armenian diaspora’s literature was nationalized in the absence of state institutions.
The book shows that when Beirut took over as the nucleus of the diaspora’s literary activity and intellectuals began to construct a unified and coherent narrative of the diaspora, the city came to be positioned as the thread that connected the current activities to the pre-1915 literary tradition and the “Menk” generation was excluded from the modern Armenian literary canon due to its writers’ attempts to understand diasporic experience as interrupted time.
Ultimately, the book argues that the adoption of the category of the “national” as the organizing logic of literary production in a diaspora setting limited the long-term vitality of this stateless language, for it ignored the multifarious composition of diaspora communities.
“An exemplary engagement with a number of current debates about diasporas and nations, national literatures and world literature, trauma and mourning, resulting in a book that will draw attention from multiple and vigorous intellectual constituencies,” said Khachig Tölölyan, professor emeritus at Wesleyan University in Connecticut about the book.
“An invaluable study of the effects of the Armenian genocide on the language and literature of Armenians scattered across the globe,” said Nasrin Rahimieh of the University of California, Irvine.
Dr. Chahinian also lectures in the Program for Armenian Studies at UC Irvine, where she is also a Visiting Faculty member in the Department of Comparative Literature. She co-edits “Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies” and contributes regularly to the Armenian literary magazine “Pakin.”