Manjikian: Beads Exposed

Once forcefully displaced, as post-genocide diasporans, we keep travelling across borders, moving from city to city and, in the process, establishing and sustaining multiple transnational networks and connections within professional and personal spheres. It’s just the way we roll, as scattered beads. Besides actual voyages, we even maintain symbolic and imagined ties with regions and lands in historic Armenia.

Dispersion is, after all, connected to mobility and movement. Our identities are onboard for the ride, continually being re-formulated, re-created due to multiple attachments, belongings, and exposures to various cultures and influences thrown at us by the uncontrollable vigor of globalization.

On most days, I feel as though belonging to the diaspora is just being in one long and never-ending transit. I am quite certain that these movements have contributed to making us flexible citizens in more than one place, with the innate ability to adapt, integrate, and even contribute to wherever we make a “temporary” stop.

We often assume that we owe our survival to being strict preservers of our language, as well as our national, religious, and cultural identities and values. Surely that is the case, and to dismiss the respectable sacrifices and effort invested into this preservation would be misguided. However, I like to think that beyond being rigid fortress guardians, we have also sought flexible positions that cannot be overlooked, especially as we continue to thrive throughout the diaspora.

This flexibility is productive, assuming it is counterbalanced with firm roots. As much as our identities can be fluid, dynamic, and shifting in nature, I imagine our roots to be thick and dense, and firmly entrenched in us. Those roots are fed by a national consciousness, a common history, and a collective memory, in addition to organizational and personal expressions of “Armenianness.” No matter how you decide to define those roots, opening up to the world around us does not necessarily equate to assimilation and demise. On the contrary, spreading our roots or, better yet, transplanting them in unexpected places and situations is essential to our survival. The diaspora is doomed only when its roots retract and we close ourselves off (read ghettos). Not only does this limit our own growth, but it is detrimental to advancing our just cause.

Ironically, the idea of openness makes me think of closure and how, as a nation, we are in desperate need of it. Our identities may fluctuate, but one constant is inescapable: the morbid reality of genocide. I constantly grapple with the question of whether or not we are defined in large part by the genocide. I like to think that the answer is a blunt no. As a nation (and by that I mean both Armenia and the diaspora), we have far more to offer the world than an enormous traumatic rupture. The abundance of literary, historical, and cultural riches and political victories are hard to neglect. Perhaps we should increasingly push such elements more to the forefront for the consumption of non-Armenian audiences around the world. While (over)-commemorating genocide, are we (under)-celebrating our victories and other achievements within the political social and cultural spheres? I think we are, and with reason—how can we move on to fully focus our resources, energies, and efforts when such a gaping wound remains open? It is hard to focus energy elsewhere when we do all in our reach and power to secure allies, friends, and various political parties to advocate alongside us for recognition.

The lack of closure is surely an infringement on our advancement in many ways and hinders our development as a nation. But at the same time, and on a more hopeful note, it engenders a particular energy, one that propels us to keep spreading our roots in the quest for justice.

Some find the word “closure” to be over-rated. I don’t.

With physical wounds, we rush to close them up. Our automatic instinct is to apply pressure on a bleeding injury to seal it. The healing time and the ensuing scar are always determined by how deep the cut is.

As we continue to make our journeys across the diaspora and Armenia, we will always be the bold-colored beads of different shapes and sizes with rich textures. It is only when one takes a closer look that a fine fracture line may be observable. The exposed cracked line is as a part of us as the wrinkles on my grandfather’s serene face, who never returned home to his village of Tomarza in Kayseri.

Closure will not be attained by settling for a clumsy patch-up. Closure only makes sense when it is definite and non-negotiable. Only then will moving beads begin to mend.

Lalai Manjikian

Lalai Manjikian

Dr. Lalai Manjikian is a humanities professor at Vanier College in Montreal. Her teaching and research interests are in the areas of immigration and refugee studies, media representations of migration, migrant narratives and diaspora studies. She is the author of Collective Memory and Home in the Diaspora: The Armenian Community in Montreal (2008). Lalai’s articles have been published in a number of newspapers and journals including The Armenian Weekly, Horizon Weekly, 100 Lives (The Aurora Prize), the Montreal Gazette, and Refuge. A former Birthright Armenia participant (2005), over the years, Lalai has been active in volunteering both within the Armenian community in Montreal and the local community at large, namely engaged in immigrant and refugee integration. She previously served as a qualitative researcher on the Armenian Diaspora Survey in Montreal. Lalai also serves as a board member for the Foundation for Genocide Education. She holds a PhD in Communication Studies from McGill University (2013).


  1. As always Lalai, your column articulates what is in the hearts of so many rolling beads…
    I wish to offer an idea as food for thought… You spoke about moving forward after achieving closure on the subject of genocide, however an open wound need not become a scar to be a part of us that incites us to perpetual motion.  Even with closure, pain subsides with time, but never leaves… It serves as a reminder that we survived, always.
    Abris, keep up the great work!

  2. Hye Lalai, abrees…
    Yet, all where Armenians are, where Armenians have been, our advanced culture has left signs of the Armenians… Armenians having been there… not to destroy, eliminate, just Armenians having ‘been there’…

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