Dr. Dickran Kouymjian and Barlow Der Mugrdechian of the Armenian Studies Program at California State University, Fresno, participated in a major conference on “Rethinking Armenian Studies: Past, Present, and Future,” co-sponsored by NAASR and the Harvard Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, held on October 5-6 at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, and at the Center of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) in Belmont, MA.
Professor Kouymjian gave papers in two panels, one on “The Role of University Chairs,” and the other on “The Future of Armenian Studies.” Der Mugrdechian gave a paper on “The Society for Armenian Studies-A 28 -year View” as part of a panel on “The Role of Organizations, Institutions, and Research Centers.”
Dr. Kouymjian’s first paper covered a historical overview of the discipline of Armenian studies, from its inception in the Diaspora, to the current status. Prof. Kouymjian holds the Berberian Chair of Armenian Studies at CSU Fresno and thus spoke from his experience gained as a chair-holder. His paper stressed some of the challenges facing Armenian studies and also discussed how these challenges could be faced.
Der Mugrdechian’s paper provided an analysis of the activities of the Society for Armenian Studies, its achievements, and areas where work remains to be done. The Society for Armenian Studies has been at the center of the Armenian studies movement, since most of its members are integrally involved with the development of Armenian studies programs throughout the world. The SAS publications, the Journal for the Society for Armenian Studies and the Newsletter provide for communication between scholars on a variety of topics. In addition, the Society supports young scholars by providing financial support through grants for excellence in writing.
Prof. Kouymjian’s second paper, was part of the panel on “The Future of Armenian Studies.” He began by reading a portion of a paper he wrote 30 years ago on the future of Armenian Studies. Many of the measures he called for then have since been accomplished, but some of the important suggestions made at that time remain topics of discussion, and, indeed, formed the basis of the weekend’s conference.
On Saturday evening a banquet was held for the conference participants, guests, and members of the public at the Sheraton Commander Hotel in Cambridge. Following remarks by NAASR Board Chairman Nancy Kolligian and Prof. James Russell of Harvard, His Excellency Dr. Arman Kirakossian, Armenian Ambassador to the United States, spoke on “Armenian Studies and Its Future.” Ambassador Kirakossian, who is himself a historian, urged increased cooperation and collaboration between scholars and the formation of an international association of Armenian Studies. He stated, “joint research projects and publications, collaboration on translations, organization of general and specialized conferences and seminars in Armenia and abroad, exchange of information and publications, will help dissipate the unhealthy climate of mutual accusations and recriminations.”