1138) Elites and Institutions in Armenian Transnation, Khachig Tölölyan

Wesleyan University

Paper given to the conference on Transnational Migration: Comparative Perspectives. Princeton University, 30 June-1 July 2001

1. Introduction

The sun never sets on the Armenian diaspora. Its constituent communities include—in a descending order that reflects population and not cultural, political, or economic importance—communities in Russia (nearly 2 million), the United States (800,000), Georgia (400,000), France (250,000), the Ukraine (150,000), Lebanon (105,000), Iran (ca. 100,000), Syria (70,000), Argentina (60,000), Turkey (60,000), Canada (40,000), and Australia (30,000). There are some twenty other communities with smaller populations, ranging from 25,000 down to 3,000, in Britain, Greece, Germany, Brazil, Sweden, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, the Gulf Emirates, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Hungary, Uzbekistan, and Ethiopia. . .

Distinct and heterogeneous as these communities are, three generalizations can be ventured about them and the global diaspora they constitute. First, communal elites, along with the diasporic institutions, organizations, and associations2 they lead, have been unusually important to them for an unusually long time. These institutions and elites have always done work that is simultaneously philanthropic, cultural, and political. This work has required material resources and communal hierarchies, and has combined selfless voluntarism with socially coerced participation, all in the name of the nation-in-exile. Second, this diaspora is undergoing an accelerating transition from exilic nationalism to diasporic transnationalism. And, third, this transition is challenging the agendas, discourses, and resources of existing institutions, causing changes and occasionally leading to the creation of new organizations.



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