Spaces of Difference, Spaces of Belonging: Negotiating Armenianness in Lebanon and France
Problematizing diaspora/homeland and diaspora/host-country binaries, this chapter argues that the descendants of once dispersed populations and the institutions they establish in various countries become embedded in the social fabric of local societies, and therefore they can no longer be considered as temporary in “host” countries with an inalienable and essentialized yearning for the homeland. By focusing on the formation of Armenian public and private spaces of difference in Lebanon and France in the twentieth century it is suggested that even polities that promoted and valorized assimilation have yielded spaces for the articulation, expression and production of ethno-confessional differences. In the process of negotiating such enthno-confessional spaces of difference, various Armenian ethnic institutions emerged in these countries, some of which became (permanently) embedded in the legal, political, and social structure of local societies. It is around and beyond the network of these emerging and declining, enduring and short-term, local and translocal ethnic structures and institutions that different Armenian spaces have developed in Lebanon and France (and elsewhere), in relation to which subsequent generations of (originally) displaced Armenians articulated their own forms of cultural and ethnic difference, negotiated various expressions of Armenianness.