Armenians in Ethiopia: Foreignness, Politics, and the Making of a Homeland in Diaspora

Lecture | October 16 | 12-1:30 p.m. | 270 Stephens Hall

 Boris Adjemian, Director, AGBU Nubar Library (Paris)

 Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES), Armenian Studies Program

In the academic literature and typologies, the Armenian diaspora is widely characterized as a classical example of trading diaspora, middlemen minority, and/or victim diaspora. In this conception diasporas are supposed to be de-territorialized, inextricably linked to the remote fatherland of their ancestors, whereas their attachment to the host society would remain superficial and depoliticized. However, the history of Armenians in Ethiopia brings some nuances to this theoretical frame. From the early Modern period to the era of European colonialism, the utilisation of Armenian servants and agents by Ethiopian sovereigns seems revealing of the existence of specific perceptions of Armenians in Ethiopia. Throughout the 20th century, Armenian immigrants and their descendants in Ethiopia proved deeply integrated into the host society. The study of collective memory of Armenian immigration to Ethiopia make this integration clear, as it builds on the leitmotiv of the Ethiopian kings’ friendship towards the Armenians, thus remapping Ethiopia as a homeland of substitution for a people in exile.