Survival of a Perverse Nation: Sexuality and Kinship in Post-Soviet Armenia

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Date

2016

Authors

Shirinian, Tamar

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Nelson, Diane M

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Abstract

Survival of a Perverse Nation traces the ways in which contemporary Armenian anxieties are congealing into the figure of the “homosexual.” As in other post-Soviet republics, homosexuality has increasingly become defined as the crisis of the times, and is understood by many as a destructive force linked to European encroachment. In Armenia, a growing right-wing nationalist movement since 2012 has been targeting LGBT and feminist activists. I suggest that this movement has arisen out of Armenia’s concerns regarding proper social and biological reproduction in the face of high rates of emigration of especially men in search of work. Many in the country blame this emigration on a post-Soviet oligarchy, with close ties to the government. This oligarchy, having quickly and massively privatized and liquidated industry and land during the war over the region of Nagorno-Karabagh (1990-1994) with Azerbaijan, created widespread un(der)employment. A national narrative attributing the nation’s survival of the 1915 Genocide and dispersion of its populations to strong morality preserved by institutions such as the Church and the family has now, in the post-Soviet era, ruptured into one of moral “perversion.” This dissertation is based on 15 months of ethnographic research, during which I participated in the work of two local non-governmental organizations: Public Information and Need for Knowledge, an LGBT rights organization and Women’s Resource Center, a feminist organization. I also conducted interviews with 150 households across Yerevan, the capital city, and did in-depth interviews with other activists, right-wing nationalists and journalists. Through psychoanalytic frameworks, as well as studies of kinship, I show how sovereignty – the longed for dream for Armenians over the last century – is felt to have failed because of the moral corruption of the illegitimate figures that fill Armenian seats of authority. I, thus, examine the ways in which a missing father of the household is discursively linked to the lack of strong leadership by a corrupt government, producing a prevalent feeling of moral disintegration that nationalists displace onto the “homosexual.”

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Shirinian, Tamar (2016). Survival of a Perverse Nation: Sexuality and Kinship in Post-Soviet Armenia. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/12242.

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