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The myth and reality of ‘return’ – diaspora in the 'homeland'

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Diaspora
Issue number3
Volume18
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)358-381
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The contemporary Armenian diaspora is spread throughout the world, with its core composed of descendants of the survivors of the atrocities carried out by the Turkish authorities during the decline of the Ottoman Empire (1881–1922). The majority of this established diaspora hails from what was once western Armenia and is now eastern Turkey, in contrast to the newest wave of Armenian economic migrants, who come from portions of eastern historical Armenia ruled by the czarist and then Soviet empires and who left following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Unlike the new migrants, the older diasporans have to negotiate the gap between a mythical homeland and an actual “step-homeland” in the shape of the present Republic of Armenia. This background goes some way to explain why there was been very little “return” migration to Armenia by diasporans. Nonetheless, a very small number of diasporans have actually taken up the option of “return” in the sense of relocating to Armenia. I have termed this trend a particular kind of “sojourning,” located in the conceptual space in between migrant and visitor. The concept of sojourn reflects the increased mobility and flexibility of both the theory and practice of diaspora, challenging the traditional triadic framework of homeland–diaspora–host state through which diasporas have been approached. This article plots the evolving and complex relationship of diaspora and “homeland” on the ground, specifically through the experiences of diasporans who have made the move to live in Armenia for varying periods of time. It analyzes and articulates the experiences of these individuals and views them as a counter-community that re-imagines and expands the “homeland” while embodying the transnational. This movement represents identity shaping from below, which does not subvert state categories of belonging (and in fact can reinforce them) [End Page 358] but transgresses and expands the boundaries of these categories in practice and in the imagining of the “transnation.”