Lerna Ekmekcioglu

MIT Workshop on Feminist Armenian Studies Set for April 7


BOSTON – A pioneering all-day workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Saturday, April 7, is scheduled to bring together an international cast of scholars to assess the current state of Armenian women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

Dr. Lerna Ekmekcioglu, professor of history at MIT, and her colleague, Dr. Melissa Bilal, visiting professor of Armenian Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, are the organizers of the workshop, which aims to bring into public and scholarly attention the absence of Armenians in Women and Gender Studies and the lack of a feminist perspective in Armenian Studies.

Melissa Bilal

In announcing the workshop, the two scholars explain that their purpose is to “start a conversation around ways of studying gender and sexuality in Armenian communities in the past and in the present, and ways of introducing Armenian experience into feminist history and theory.” Their hope is to “open up a discussion around fresh theoretical and methodological paths that will bring these two fields together.”

In opening the workshop, the two organizers will present their own project, “Feminism in Armenian: An Interpretive Anthology and a Digital Archive,” in which they are collecting and making available the writings of 12 Western Armenian feminists, including Srpuhi Diusap (1840-1901), Zabel Yesayan (1878-1943), Hayganush Mark (1883-1966) and Zaruhi Kalemkearian (1874-1971). Chair of this session is Anna Aleksanyan (Clark University).

The second session will discuss “Across the Linguistic Divide: Translating a Century of Armenian Feminist Thought,” with panelists Shushan Avagyan (American University of Armenia), Maral Aktokmakyan (University of Michigan), Jennifer Manoukian (UCLA) and Deanna Cachoian-Schanz (University of Pennsylvania). Lisa Gulesserian (Harvard University) will chair this session.

Zabel Yesayan


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Following lunch, the third workshop session is titled “Unblocking Memory: How to Rewrite Armenian History,” with panelists Isabel Kaprielian-Churchill (Fresno State University), Barbara Merguerian (Armenian International Women’s Association), Eliz Sanasarian (University of Southern California), Houri Berberian (University of California Irvine) and Christina Maranci (Tufts University). Chair of the session is Lerna Ekmekcioglu.

The final session will look at “Voicing out the Critique: How to Generate Countering Expressions,” with panelists Susan Pattie (University College London), Hourig Attarian (American University of Armenia), Talar Chahinian (California State University Long Beach), and Arpi Hamalian (Concordia University – Montreal). Melissa Bilal will chair this session.

Dr. Mary Papazian, president of San Jose State University, will be the final speaker.

Titled “Feminist Interventions in Armenian Studies//Armenian Interventions in Feminist Studies,” the workshop is open to the public free of charge. It will take place at MIT Building 4, room 237, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. More information can be found at http://wgs.mit.edu/armenian-studies or by contacting lerna@mit.edu or melissab@chicago.edu.

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