Rethinking Armenian History through Paradigms of Interaction: The Armenian Experience with Islam as Case Study

A lecture by Seta Dadoyan, Yerevan State University

Thursday, April 12, 2012
4:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

The Armenian experience in the medieval Near East as well as the modern Middle East is too diverse to respond to ideological demands and simplistic constructs. As Dadoyan indicates, several and often contradictory trends and close interactions on all levels went into processes that by their nature escape the criteria of traditional and modernist Armenian narratives. If from the beginning of their history, she argues, the Armenians and their native land as well as their habitat spread from central Asia Minor and the Black Sea to the Southern Caucasus and the Caspian Sea, to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt, then their history too is naturally part of these locations and their peoples. Armenians lived as integral elements and their world was governed by more or less the same laws that governed the region. In other words, things Armenian are also things Near/Middle Eastern and must be studied as such. Armenian narratives – both medieval and modern – do not reflect this aspect, and fail to account for the totality of the Armenian experience in all its interactive and peculiar aspects in and as an integral part of the region.  Consequently, says Dadoyan, so far undetected and/or intentionally marginalized patterns of interactions stand as counter-cases and arguments against most circulating accounts. Chronologically arranged these paradigm cases in the three volumes of her book reflect surprisingly dynamic processes and expand the peripheries of Armenian and Near Eastern historical thinking into newer possibilities. In style, content and structure, her extensive study is written as an argument for and a prolegomenon to rethinking and rewriting Armenian history in its interactive aspects and Near Eastern context. Often excavated from primary Arab sources, most of the themes are discovered or brought up for the first time. The scope of her work is much wider than the title and the Armenian experience with cultural and political Islam is in fact a case study. But as a novel area in the discipline of Armenian studies, it allows the author a comfortable margin for fresh thinking and revaluation. Her ultimate aim is to draw the outlines of a new philosophy of historical thinking and writing not only in Armenian but also Near Eastern studies in general. Her massive three volume book is the culmination of a long and hard journey into unchartered territories and two decades of research and publication (of two other books and several papers in the subject). Volume I was out in October, 2011: The Armenians in the Medieval Islamic World Paradigms of Interaction Seventh - Fourteenth Centuries, Volume I: The Arab Period in Armīnyah - 7th -11th Centuries (New Brunswick, NJ & London, UK: Transaction Publishers, 2011). The other two volumes are to be published consecutively in October 2012 and October 2013, titled as follows: Volume II: Armenian Realpolitik in the Islamic World - Diverging Paradigms and the Case of Cilicia - 10th 14th Centuries; Volume III: Erzinjān and Paradigms of Medieval Cosmopolitanism - The Prophet and Islam in Armenian Literature -13th 14th Centuries.  

Seta B. Dadoyan was professor of cultural studies, philosophy, art history, history of technology and professional ethics at the American University of Beirut 1986-2005. Previously she also taught at Haigazian University and the Lebanese-American University. She was the Ordjanian Visiting Professor of Armenian Studies at MEALAC of Columbia University, during the spring terms of 2002 and 2006.  She taught at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle (2007-2010), and at the Department of Near eastern Languages and Civilizations of the University of Chicago. In the Fall Semester of 2011 she was invited as visiting professor at Yerevan State University. The focus of her research and publications is the study of Armenian social-political and intellectual cultures in their interactive aspects within the Near Eastern world, both medieval and modern. In addition to many lectures in various universities and institutions, she is the author of over 50 extensive papers in Armenian and English in scholarly journals. She is the author of six books: Armenian Painting in Lebanon in the Light of the Crisis of Identity (Beirut:1984), Pages of West-Armenian Philosophy (Beirut:1987), Yovhannes Erznkac’i:  'Views from the Writings of Islamic Philosophers' and  Philosophical Treatises in the Light of their Islamic Sources – Ikhwān al Safā’ (Beirut: Technopress, 1991), The Fatimid Armenians: Cultural and Political Interactions in the Near East (Leiden: Brill, 1997), The Armenian Catholicosate from Cilicia to Antelias: An Introduction to the Political History. (Beirut: 2003). Her magnum opus is The Armenians in the Medieval Islamic World – Paradigms of Interaction - Seventh to Fourteenth Centuries, in 3 vols. (2011-2013).Vol. I: The Arab Period in Armīnyah - Seventh to Eleventh Centuries (New Brunswick NJ & London UK: Transaction Publishers, 2011).


Cost : Free and Open to the Public

(310) 825-1181
Image for Calendar ButtonImage for Calendar Button

Sponsor(s): , UCLA Program in Armenian Language and Culture