Armenian Academics For Black Lives Matter

A doctoral student initiative to garner support from the Armenian academic community

A scene from a recent Black Lives Matter protest in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo: Armen Adamian)

Three Armenian doctoral students from UCLA—Natalie Kamajian, Armen Adamian and Lilit Ghazaryan—penned the following statement to express solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement. This initiative is intended to unite Armenian academics globally across various disciplines in their commitment to advancing anti-racist methodologies, perspectives and practices.

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We, a group of Armenian academics, want to collectively express our support for the Black Lives Matter movement. As educators and knowledge producers, we cannot be neutral in the face of systemic oppression fueled by anti-Black racism in the United States and around the world. This is a call to all Armenian academics to actively dismantle white supremacist logics in both our personal and professional lives.

In understanding our own Armenian experience, we acknowledge that historical injustices are often reproduced in present hierarchies of power. We know that the Black experience is defined by perpetual injustice rooted in chattel slaveryspecifically systematic marginalization, mass incarceration, manufactured poverty, and ultimately murder. Furthermore, the United States is a settler-colonial project founded on the genocide of Indigenous nations. This legacy of stolen land and stolen labor is a foundational element of the US capitalist enterprise. The Armenian past—rife with state-sanctioned oppression, genocide, dispossession, and exile—informs our position today. In recognizing these connections, it is our ethical obligation to challenge hegemonic systems of power in all of its forms. 

At this critical juncture, we are reminded of the key role played by scholarship during social justice movements. We, as Armenian academics, promise to actively fight against structural anti-Black racism. We must interrogate our role in the reproduction of white supremacy. We must take issue with our direct or indirect investments in establishments that racialize, exploit, and impoverish communities. To do this, we call on our colleagues to decenter whiteness and eurocentrism in our pedagogies and curricula, and to make concerted efforts to engage the methodologies of Black radical thinkers. We also pledge to advocate for police divestment at our respective colleges and universities, and to help reimagine new strategies for public wellness and communal safety. Lastly, we will work towards building solidarity with other scholars of color (in particular Black and Indigenous) to advance meaningful allyship.

We, the undersigned, profess a vested interest in disentangling Armenianness from the mythology of whiteness. We promise that the knowledge we produce will be radically anti-racist and will side with those who are oppressed by harmful ideologies and repressive systems of power.

Natalie Kamajian, Ph.D. student, Culture and Performance, UCLA

Armen Adamian, Ph.D. student, Ethnomusicology, UCLA

Lilit Ghazaryan, Ph.D. student, Anthropology, UCLA

Signatories as of July 2, 2020

1. Melissa Bilal, Ph.D., Distinguished Research Fellow and Lecturer, Center for Near Eastern Studies and Department of Ethnomusicology, UCLA
2. Janice Okoomian, Assistant Professor of English/Gender and Women’s Studies, Rhode Island College
3. Shushan Avagyan, Assistant Professor, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, American University of Armenia
4. Tamar Shirinian, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
5. Hourig Attarian, Associate Professor, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, American University of Armenia
6. Karena Avedissian, Ph.D., Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham
7. Susan Pattie, Honorary Senior Research Associate at University College London and former Director of the Armenian Institute in London
8. Arto Vaun, Chair, English & Communications Program, & Director, Center for Creative Writing, American University of Armenia
9. Lerna Ekmekçioğlu, Associate Professor of History and Women and Gender Studies, MIT
10. Nelli Sargsyan, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Marlboro College, Vermont, USA
11. Hrayr Attarian MD, Professor of Neurology, Northwestern University Chicago, USA
12. Seta Kabranian-Melkonian, Assistant Professor, Department of Human Services,  University of Alaska, Anchorage, USA
13. Markar Melkonian, Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, California State University, Northridge, USA
14. Elyse Semerdjian, Professor of History, Whitman College
15. Houri Berberian, Professor of History, University of California, Irvine
16. Sophia Armen, Ph.D. Student, Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego
17. Rosie Vartyter Aroush, Ph.D., Armenian Studies, Gender & Sexuality Research, UCLA
18. Sebouh David Aslanian, Professor of History, Richard Hovannisian Chair of Modern Armenian History, and inaugural Director of Armenian Studies Center, Promise Armenian Institute, UCLA
19. Khatchig Mouradian, Lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University
20. Sylvia Angelique Alajaji, Associate Professor of Music, Franklin & Marshall College
21. Talar Chahinian, Lecturer, Armenian Studies Program and Department of Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine
22. Jesse Arlen, Ph.D. Candidate, Near Eastern Languages & Cultures, UCLA
23. Arpi Melikyan, Ph.D. student, Department of French and Francophone Studies, UCLA
24. Meline Mesropyan, Ph.D., Fellow researcher at Graduate School of International Cultural Studies, Tohoku University
25. Sona Tajiryan, Ph.D. Candidate, History Department, UCLA
26. Aram Ghoogasian, Ph.D. student, Department of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University
27. Astghik Hovhannisyan, Ph.D., Visiting Researcher at International Research Center for Japanese Studies/ Senior lecturer at Russian-Armenian University
28. Jennifer Manoukian, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, UCLA
29. Gabriella Djerrahian, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University
30. Nora Lessersohn, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, University College London
31. Carina Karapetian Giorgi, Ph.D., Department Chair of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Sociology Faculty at Antelope Valley College
32. Christian Garbis, Lecturer, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, American University of Armenia
33. Yevgenya Jenny Paturyan, Associate Professor, Political Science and International Affairs, American University of Armenia
34. Hrag Papazian, Adjunct Lecturer, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, American University of Armenia
35.
Tsolin Nalbantian, University Lecturer, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, Leiden University
36. Rafik Santrosyan, Ph.D. in Linguistics, Adjunct Lecturer at the College of the Humanities and Social Sciences, American University of Armenia
37. Aram Kerovpyan, Ph.D., “Akn” Center for Modal Chant Studies, Paris
38. Anna Aleksanyan, Ph.D. Candidate, Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University
39. Vahram Elagöz, Ph.D., Adjunct faculty, Acopian Center for the Environment, American University of Armenia
40. Nora Tataryan, Ph.D., Adjunct faculty, Cultural Studies, Sabanci University, Istanbul
41. Sevan Injejikian, Ph.D. Candidate, University College London (UCL), Adjunct Faculty, American University of Armenia (AUA)
42. Deanna Cachoian-Schanz, Ph.D. student, Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania
43. David Kazanjian, Professor, University of Pennsylvania
44. Karen Jallatyan, Manoogian Post-doctoral Fellow and Lecturer, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
45. Joanne Nucho, Assistant Professor, Pomona College
46. Suzie Abajian, Ph.D., SPUSD School Board Member, Orange County Department of Education Administrator, former adjunct faculty at LMU and Occidental College
47. Veronika Zablotsky, Mellow-Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellow, UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, University of California, Los Angeles
48. Dzovinar Derderian, Ph.D., University of Michigan
49. Richard Antaramian, Assistant Professor of History, University of Southern California
50. Ararat Sekeryan, Ph.D. student, Slavic Languages & Comparative Literature, Columbia University
51. Michael Pifer, Ph.D., Lecturer, University of Michigan
52. Marianna Hovhannisyan, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego
53. Helen Makhdoumian, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
54. Movses Pogossian, Professor of Violin, Director, UCLA Armenian Music Program, Herb Alpert School of Music, University of California, Los Angeles
55. Lori Khatchadourian, Associate Professor, Department of Near Eastern Studies, Cornell University
56. Kim Hekimian, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Nutrition in Pediatrics, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
57. Sevan Beukian, Ph.D., Lecturer, Department of Political Science and Department of Women and Gender Studies, University of Alberta, Canada
58. Anahit Galstyan, Ph.D. student, Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara
59. Ann R. Karagozian, Distinguished Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Inaugural Director, The Promise Armenian Institute, UCLA
60. Hayarpi Papikyan, Ph.D., Adjunct Faculty, American University of Armenia (AUA)
61. Alexandra Boghosian, Ph.D. student, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University
62. Ayda Erbal, Lecturer, Department of Politics, New York University
63. Zoe Sherinian, Professor of Ethnomusicology, University of Oklahoma
64. Robin Garabedian, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
65. Rachel Goshgarian, Associate Professor of History, Lafayette College
66. Anahit Manoukian, Ph.D. student, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, UC Berkeley
67. Margaret Sarkissian, Professor of Ethnomusicology, Smith College
68. Aram Goudsouzian, Professor of History, University of Memphis
69. Alique Berberian, Ph.D. student, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Fielding School of Public Health, UCLA
70. Arin A. Balalian, DrPH student, Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
71. Laure Astourian, Assistant Professor of French, Bentley University
72. Jolie Mandelbaum, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, University of Missouri
73. Bedross Der Matossian, Associate Professor of Modern Middle East History, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
74. Arpi Siyahian, Ph.D, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
75. Kristine Martirosyan-Olshansky, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California Los Angeles
76. Misak Khachatryan, Psy.D. Student, The Wright Institute
77. Elise Youssoufian, Ph.D. student, Philosophy and Religion, concentration in Women’s Spirituality, California Institute of Integral Studies
78. Marine Sargsyan, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, Roma Tre University, Italy
79. Armine Ishkanian, Associate Professor in Social Policy and Executive Director, Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity,  International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics, UK
80. Christopher Sheklian, Ph.D., Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center
81. Anna Nikoghosyan, Lecturer, Yerevan State University
82. Sossie Kasbarian, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics,  University of Stirling, Scotland
83. Kohar Avakian, Ph.D. candidate, American Studies, Yale University
84. Lisa Gulesserian, Preceptor on Armenian Language and Culture, Harvard University
85. Victor Agadjanian, Professor, Department of Sociology and the International Institute, UCLA
86. Arlene Voski Avakian, Professor Emeritus, Department of Women. Gender, Sexuality, University of Massachusetts Amherst
87. Christina Mehranbod, Ph.D. Student, Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
88. Artyom H. Tonoyan, Research Associate, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
89. Lilit Keshishyan, Ph.D., Lecturer, The Writing Program, University of Southern California
90. Shushan Karapetian, Ph.D., Deputy Director, Institute of Armenian Studies, University of Southern California
91. Lara Tcholakian, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Management & Organization, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
92. Anahid Matossian, Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology, University of Kentucky
93. Vazken Khatchig Davidian, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford
94. Kevork Oskanian, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Birmingham
95. Kamee Abrahamian, Ph.D. Candidate in Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute
96. Henry C. Theriault, Ph.D., President, International Association of Genocide Scholars, and Founding Co-Editor, Genocide Studies International
97.
Marc Mamigonian, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, Director of Academic Affairs
98. Naneh Apkarian, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education, Arizona State University
99. Armen Karamanian, Ph.D., University of Technology Sydney
100. Kristin Cavoukian, Ph.D., Sessional Lecturer, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto Mississauga
101. Haig Armen, MDM, Associate Professor of Design, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver, BC
102. Ara Sanjian, Associate Professor of History and Director of Armenian Research Center, University of Michigan, Dearborn
103.
Hagop Gulludjian, Ph.D., Lecturer, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of California, Los Angeles
104. Lalai Manjikian, Ph.D., Professor, Humanities Department, Vanier College, Montreal, Quebec
105. Serouj Aprahamian, Ph.D. Candidate in Dance Studies, York University

For those interested in signing the statement, please complete this Google Form with your information. The Google Document will be updated manually. To view the most updated version, please click here.

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13 Comments

  1. A timely and eloquent statement. Indeed, the Armenian past—rife with state-sanctioned oppression, genocide, dispossession, and exile–calls out
    for such clarity.

  2. Does this include an approval of the the violence, burning, looting, bringing down Lincoln’s statues, etc,?

  3. poor misguided souls. Think about this. lack LIves Matter. It was the Blacks of Africa, that invaded other tribes and took them as slave and/or sold them to slave traders. We went to war to end slavery. We lost more American lives in that war than any other. We have brought in affirmative action in jobs, schools etc,etc. But we are NOT responsible for Black on Black Crime. Yet all of you hypocrites are out saying Black Lives Matter, but apparently not in Chicago, where how many children have been killed just in the past two weeks. THAT is where your efforts should be. NOt with these “feel good” print outs. All this is patronizing pandering which is insulting.

  4. Though the statement was well-written considering it was several hundred words of pseudo academic babble, it is a useless declaration by a useless group of people. Academics, especially liberal arts academics, are among American society’s most irrelevant. Largely overpaid and contribute nothing to the real world. Sick of the pandering we do to people who don’t support us in return.

  5. What a bunch of academic double-speak…Armenians bending over backwards in a shaneful attempt to prove their “non-white” street creds…It’s laughable.

  6. Everyone knows academics use impenetrable jargon to dress scanty ideas up to look bigger and grander than they are. See e.g. the famous hoax: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/new-sokal-hoax/572212/

    This petition is even worse than that. There isn’t even a scanty idea.

    Without regard to whether a very diffuse group of people and ideas sheltering under the “BLM” roof deserve praise, or support, the petitioners here say their truth but say it so opaquely that a reasonably well-informed and sympathetic person has no idea what on earth the petition means. What actions will you signers take? Who are the radical African-American writers you support? Just how exactly do Armenians wrongly support or identify with “whiteness?” For that matter, how is “whiteness” different from the dominant forms of political, popular, economic and mass media cultures?

    The worst thing about your petition is that you are taking a civic oath to be biased. That which you identify as part of “whiteness” is bad, that which attacks it is good. Your minds are closed. God Help any student of yours who differs. You’ll flunk her. What will you do to the first conservative or BLM-skeptic who crosses your path in class?

    Are ancient Christian and European methods of inquiry, science and argument “white”? Was Aristotle or Augustine (a Berber) white? Is the Armenian Apostolic Church “white?” Is white a racial category, or is it what people called “the Establishment” in the 1960’S?

    If I were teaching a writing course and a student turned in your petition for my comments, I would say it could only appeal to a humanities grad student looking to climb the greasy careerist pole. It is full of euphemism and circuitry, and means whatever you want it to mean, apart from the stunning affirmation of bias.

    Think for yourselves. And you might even get an engineer to sign on.

  7. Excuse me, but in my opinion most of this is just “pc” virtue-signaling with no positive effect whatsoever, even if well-intentioned.

    Most Black Americans do very well – increasingly so.

    However, there still remain the problems of Black on Black crime. If “black lives matter” so much, then why so much of that kind of crime?

    Are we to believe that when a Black policeman arrests a Black person, this is racism? Police are increasingly people of color.

    Blacks have a deprived historical background, slavery and discrimination. That is true.

    But we cannot ignore:

    Desegregation of schools
    Civil rights laws
    Voting rights laws
    Affirmative action (and, yes, quotas)
    Welfare programs of various kinds (for Whites, too, yes, but they are particularly aimed at Blacks)
    Scholarship programs for inner city youth
    Local and state programs aimed at Blacks

    The above academic statement does not represent the viewpoint of many of us Armenians.

    As for the statement, “We, the undersigned, profess a vested interest in disentangling Armenianness from the mythology of whiteness,” I doubt anyone could explain exactly what that means.

    If Whiteness is a mythology, isn’t Blackness?

  8. There is not a single unambiguous reference to the Armenian Genocide in this text. Why?

    “The Armenian past” implies the Genocide is over and Turkey has paid. Simply not true.

  9. AW and the signers of the Petition have been hoodwinked.

    Two of the petition-drafters, Mr. Adamian and Ms. Kamajian were involved in an infamous 2018 incident at UCLA in which they disrupted a panel discussion and harassed an Armenian speaker. The video is here:https://canarymission.org/individual/Armen_Adamian

    I do not quarrel here with their antipathy for Israel. I completely disagree with their concerted assault on freedom of assembly and speech, NOT TO MENTION DISRESPECT FOR THE Armenian FLAG .

    Unable to get much traction against Israel at UCLA, these cowards have shown by their actions on video how they plan to treat any people who disagree with them – even Armenians. If you read the article to which I have linked, you will see that Adamian tore the Armenian flag off the wall and grabbed the notes from an Armenian speaker, who understandably complained of intimidation.

    Disagree with Adamian and Kamajoian about their views? You can expect the same treatment.

  10. I support the struggle against racism and all forms of discrimination.
    This is a responsibility of all human beings. The term “BLM Movement”
    is a particular group that uses or advocates methods that are not in the interests of America. The broad stroke anti -police messages and “revolutionary” statement are inappropriate. Support the ideal …. be care how you apply it.

    • We empathize, Jennifer. What we do not accept is the bandwagon jumping to virtue signal. I hope this explanation is helpful.

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