Armenian Studies at Columbia

Armenian Studies has a long and celebrated history at Columbia University. This page draws together the many events and announcements related to the Armenian Studies community. If you have questions about the program, please contact Alison Vacca at

Literary Lights: We Are All Armenian

Who: Aram Mrjoian, Chris Bohjalian, Nancy Kricorian, Scout Tufankjian and Hrag Vartanian

When: 3 April 2023 at 7:00pm

Where: Room C03 Columbia School of Social Work, 1255 Amsterdam Avenue

In the century since the Armenian Genocide, Armenian survivors and their descendants have written of a vast range of experiences using storytelling and activism, two important aspects of Armenian culture. Wrestling with questions of home and self, diasporan Armenian writers bear the burden of repeatedly telling their history, as it remains widely erased and obfuscated. Telling this history requires a tangled balance of contextualizing the past and reporting on the present, of respecting a culture even while feeling lost within it.

We Are All Armenian brings together established and emerging Armenian authors to reflect on the complications of Armenian ethnic identity today. These personal essays elevate diasporic voices that have been historically silenced inside and outside of their communities, including queer, multiracial, and multiethnic writers. The eighteen contributors to this contemporary anthology explore issues of displacement, assimilation, inheritance, and broader definitions of home. Through engaging creative nonfiction, many of them question what it is to be Armenian enough inside an often unacknowledged community.


Unsettling the Union: An Interdisciplinary Symposium

Who: the Heyman Center, organized by Knar Abrahamyan

When: 14 April 2023 from 9:00am to 8:00pm

Where: The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University and online

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, quickly evolved into the most large-scale war on European soil since World War II. Putin’s expansionist agenda and military aggression prompt an urgent call for a critical reassessment of Russian imperialism, raising anew the question of the former Soviet Union’s geopolitics and nation-building legacy. While scholars have extensively studied the economic, social, and political stakes of Soviet communism as a totalitarian regime, much of the Anglophone academic discourse remains driven by the so-called “Red Scare” that to this day overshadows and obscures the USSR’s role as the heir and promulgator of Russian Empire’s colonial agenda.

Unsettling the Soviet Union’s “friendship of the peoples” paradigm, this symposium foregrounds the perspectives of the marginalized ethnic and racial groups by bringing together scholars from various disciplines to offer novel methods and theories for analyzing the Soviet Union as a colonial empire: anthropology, ethnomusicology, history, literary studies, and Slavic studies. Participants will present papers that interrogate themes including colonial resistance, cultural assimilation, nation building, historical memory, and environmental colonialism. The variety of themes and disciplinary approaches will converge around efforts to interpret the relationship between hegemonic techniques of rule and the various modes of subversion and resistance that ethnic and racial minorities had exercised to withstand oppression.

The presenters will reflect on how cultural specificities within their examined geographic regions may challenge historiographic periodization that has traditionally focused on shifting policies of the various state leaders. How have cultural workers and local bureaucrats shaped the discourse of nation building in their respective republics? What alternative modes of colonial relationality, besides the classic center/periphery binary, can provide a more nuanced perspective on Soviet minority politics? How did environmental, historical, and social factors contribute to the dissolution of the USSR? And ultimately, how can a bottom-up reassessment of the Soviet legacy enhance our understanding of present-day geopolitics and provide tools for resisting Russia’s further expansionist aggression?


Remnants: Embodied Archives of the Armenian Genocide

Who: Elyse Semerdjian

When: 4 May 2023 at 4:10pm

Foremost among the images of the Armenian Genocide is the specter of tattooed Islamized Armenian women. Blue tribal tattoos that covered face and body signified assimilation into Muslim Bedouin and Kurdish households. Among Armenians, the tattooed survivor was seen as a living ethnomartyr or, alternatively, a national stain, and the bodies of women and children figured centrally within the Armenian communal memory and humanitarian imaginary. In Remnants, these tattooed and scar-bearing bodies reveal a larger history, as the lived trauma of genocide is understood through bodies, skin, and—in what remains of those lives a century afterward—bones.

With this book, Elyse Semerdjian offers a feminist reading of the Armenian Genocide. She explores how the Ottoman Armenian communal body was dis-membered, disfigured, and later re-membered by the survivor community. Gathering individual memories and archival fragments, she writes a deeply personal history, and issues a call to break open the archival record in order to embrace affect and memory. Traces of women and children rescued during and after the war are reconstructed to center the quietest voices in the historical record. This daring work embraces physical and archival remnants, the imprinted negatives of once living bodies, as a space of radical possibility within Armenian prosthetic memory and a necessary way to recognize the absence that remains.


Armenians, Kurds, and the early Turkish Republic

Who: Janet Klein, Ümit Kurt, Amy Austin Holmes, Khachatur Stepanyan, organized and moderated by Khatchig Mouradian

When: 13 February 2023

View the recording here.







Artsakh Informational Session

Who: the Columbia University Armenian Society

When: 6 February 2023

Knar Abrahamyan

Knar Abrahamyan (Ph.D., Music Theory, Yale University) is a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia’s Society of Fellows for the 2022-3 academic year, after which she will join the Department of Music as Assistant Professor in Music Theory and Race. Dr. Abrahamyan is a music scholar whose work examines the historical and political entanglements of cultural production. Her book project, Opera as Statecraft in Soviet Armenia and Kazakhstan, re-envisions Soviet music history by analyzing the power dynamics between the state and its ethnic and racial Others. It explores opera as a contested imperial space through which the Soviet state pursued colonial subjugation under the guise of cultural modernization. Dr. Abrahamyan has presented at major national and international conferences, and her work on Soviet music and politics appeared in the DSCH Journal and a collected volume, Analytical Approaches to 20th-Century Russian Music.


Charry Karamanoukian

Charry Karamanoukian is Lecturer of Armenian language in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies.






Khatchig Mouradian

Khatchig Mouradian is a lecturer in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University, and the Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist at the Library of Congress. He serves as Co-Principal Investigator of the project on Armenian Genocide Denial at the Global Institute for Advanced Studies, New York University.

Dr. Mouradian is the author of The Resistance Network: The Armenian Genocide and Humanitarianism in Ottoman Syria, 1915-1918, which received the Syrian Studies Association “Honourable Mention 2021.” He is the co-editor of two forthcoming volumes on Ottoman and Middle Eastern History: After the Ottomans: Genocide’s Long Shadow and Armenian Resilience and The I.B.Tauris Handbook of the Late Ottoman Empire: History and Legacy. Dr. Mouradian has also published articles and book chapters on civil war and ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, unarmed resistance, the aftermath of mass violence, midwifery in the Middle East, and approaches to teaching history. He is the editor of the peer-reviewed journal The Armenian Review.



Alison Vacca

Alison Vacca is Gevork M. Avedissian Associate Professor of Armenian History and Civilization in the department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. Her work explores the caliphal provinces Armenia and Caucasian Albania in the seventh and eighth centuries, focusing on themes such as intercultural transmission of historical texts, quick-changing alliances in moments of intercommunal violence, and intermarriage across ethnic and religious lines.

Dr. Vacca’s first monograph, Non-Muslim Provinces under early Islam: Islamic Rule and Iranian Legitimacy in Armenia and Caucasian Albania, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2017 and received the 2018 prize from the Central Eurasian Studies Society. She also recently completed a collaborative project to edit and translate an eighth-century Armenian history of the early Caliphate based on the oldest extant manuscript, as well as editions and translations of the correspondence attributed to an Umayyad caliph and Byzantine emperor. She is currently working on another monograph project about intermarriage and community along the Khazar frontier.

In addition to her research agenda, Dr. Vacca edits al-ʿUṣūr al-Wusṭā, the open-access, peer-reviewed journal of the Middle East Medievalists.



Spring 2023

UN3331: Urban Space & Conflict in the Middle East

This course explores how civil war, revolution, militarization, mass violence, refugee crises, and terrorism impact urban spaces, and how city dwellers engage in urban resilience, negotiate and attempt to reclaim their right to the city. Through case studies of Beirut (1975-present), Baghdad (2003-present), Cairo (2011-present), Diyarbakir (1914-present), Aleppo (1914-present), and Jerusalem (1914-present), this course traces how urban life adjusted to destruction (and post-conflict reconstruction), violence, and anarchy; how neighborhoods were reshaped; and how local ethnic, religious, and political dynamics played out in these cities and metropolises. Relying on multi-disciplinary and post-disciplinary scholarship, and employing a wealth of audiovisual material, literary works, and interviews conducted by the instructor, the course scrutinizes how conflicts have impacted urban life in the Middle East, and how civilians react to, confront, and resist militarization in urban spaces.

GR5001: Political Violence in 20th-Century Europe

In the twentieth century, Europe became a site of extreme and extensive forms of political violence. This course will explore the main typologies of violence––driven by political motives and exerted by state and non-state actors––that emerged in that period, from both a historical and a theoretical point of view. The main goal of the course is to think critically about a set of substantive questions such as how people transformed political adversaries into enemies to be physically harmed; why some conflicts resulted in the killing of massive numbers of civilians; what were the social consequences of violence; and whether it is possible to observe patterns to violence’s occurrence in modern Europe.  The course proposes a multi-disciplinary approach that bridges History, Political Science, Sociology, and other fields of study that investigate this phenomenon. The course will locate political violence within its specific historical, geographical, and cultural contexts; shed light on the dynamics of radicalization, escalation, and de-escalation; and examine perpetrators’ individual as well as collective experiences. In addition to interpretative frameworks, the course will discuss a number of empirical cases, including the Armenian genocide in Turkey, paramilitarism in Italy, the civil war in Spain, and terrorism in Ireland and Germany.


Fall 2022

GU4357: War, Genocide, and Aftermath

This 4000-level course examines how societies grapple with the legacy of mass violence, through an exploration of historical texts, memoirs, textbooks, litigation, and media reports and debates on confronting the past. Focusing on case studies of the Herero Genocide, the Armenian genocide during WWI, and the Holocaust and the Comfort Women during WWII, students investigate the crime and its sequelae, looking at how societies deal with skeletons in their closets (engaging in silence, trivialization, rationalization, and denial to acknowledgment, apology, and repair); surveying responses of survivors and their descendants (with particular attention to intergeneration transmission of trauma, forgiveness, resentment, and the pursuit of redress); and dissecting public debates on modern day issues that harken back to past atrocities.

GU4942: Familiar and Foreign: Armenians, Kurds, and Turks in Pre-Modern Anatolia

This course is about Anatolia before the Ottomans. The topic has piqued the interest of generations of scholars, trending towards two questions: How did Anatolia become Turkish? and How did Anatolia become Muslim? In other words, when can we start to recognize the modern concept of Turkey? So far, the twenty-first century has witnessed a shift in questions. Scholars have recently been working to demonstrate that change did not happen in a straightforward way from Greek Christians to Turkish Muslims, but that the many communities in Anatolia all borrowed, fought, married, and traded with each other. This semester, we will read both premodern sources and modern scholarship to integrate Armenian Christians and Kurdish Muslims into the story of Turkish rule in premodern Anatolia.

GU4075: Post-Colonial / Post-Societ Cinema

The course will discuss how filmmaking has been used as an instrument of power and imperial domination in the Soviet Union as well as on post-Soviet space since 1991. A body of selected films by Soviet and post-Soviet directors which exemplify the function of filmmaking as a tool of appropriation of the colonized, their cultural and political subordination by the Soviet center will be examined in terms of postcolonial theories. The course will focus both on Russian cinema and often overlooked work of Ukrainian, Georgian, Belarusian, Armenian, etc. national film schools and how they participated in the communist project of fostering a «new historic community of the Soviet people» as well as resisted it by generating, in hidden and, since 1991, overt and increasingly assertive ways their own counter-narratives. Close attention will be paid to the new Russian film as it re-invents itself within the post-Soviet imperial momentum projected on the former Soviet colonies.


Courses in Armenian will fulfill the language requirement at Columbia. Please check the Columbia Directory of Classes for the latest information on Armenian language classes. Undergraduate and graduate students interested in learning Armenian should check here to learn about FLAS fellowships.

The Armenian language program is designed to introduce students to the Armenian world and culture as we know it today. With a vibrant Diaspora and an expanding, flourishing nation ranked country of the year in 2018 by the Economist, Armenia is the gateway to endless opportunities.


The Armenian language program offers four levels of instruction:

Elementary Armenian I (MDES 1301) and II (MDES 1302)

In Elementary Armenian I and II, students acquire the skills to communicate about topics relating to themselves and their immediate surroundings. They read authentic materials such as signs, advertisements, timetables, and texts in the form of tales, fables, and songs in unaltered original language.

Intermediate Armenian I (MDES 2301) and II (MDES 2302)

In Intermediate Armenian I and II, students acquire the skills needed to communicate about a wide range of topics relating to the world beyond their immediate surroundings. Topics include biography, geography, travel, holidays, education, health, arts, etc. At this level, students deepen their knowledge of grammar and begin to read full-length authentic short stories, excerpts from plays, newspaper headlines, and selected passages in newspaper articles in unaltered original language.

Armenian for Heritage Speakers (MDES 1309)

The Heritage course is designed for learners who have a background in Armenian, it combines the content of the elementary and intermediate levels.

Advanced Armenian I and Advanced Armenian II (MDES 4310)

In Advanced Armenian I and II, students develop competence to communicate on topics relating to social, historical, political, and cultural issues of importance to the Armenian society and the Armenian Diaspora. They perfect their knowledge of grammar and write short essays using complex forms of the language. They read longer literary works with the use of a dictionary.

The Columbia University Armenian Society (CUAS) is a non-political and non-religious organization with the goal of uniting students of Armenian descent and promoting Armenian culture, heritage, and history on Columbia’s campus. CUAS often works with other Armenian and non-Armenian organizations, both on and beyond our home campus, in order to coordinate projects in accordance with the society’s mission. In the past, we have organized social events, joint cultural gatherings, and demonstrations (such as vigils), bringing the Armenian community at Columbia together and raising awareness of Armenian issues.

Contact: Victoria Ani Melkonyan, President of CUAS. Email:

Charry Karamanoukian Publishes Textbook in Armenian 

Beginning Armenian: A Communicative Textbook introduces conversational Western and Eastern Armenian in a single volume, allowing learners to acquire the language skills they need to communicate and to reference, contrast, and compare both standards of the language.

This book contains 24 lessons, each providing a range of key vocabulary and addressing different topics of daily life, including greetings, people, and objects, as well as past and future plans. An overview of the Western and Eastern Armenian alphabet, pronunciation, and punctuation is complimented by a range of exercises introducing the basics of Armenian grammar and vocabulary, with interactive information gap and role play activities designed to develop essential conversation skills.

“This is a wonderful textbook where Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian are presented together alongside English translations and transliterations, enabling learners with diverse language backgrounds to study the Armenian language comprehensively with ease and fun. The author guides learners from Ա (A) through the alphabet, grammatical foundations, and practical vocabulary. The clear explanations and interactive, real-world exercises make it a terrific resource for learners and teachers alike. Whether you are preparing for a trip to Armenia, to interact with Armenian native speakers or simply satisfy your desire to learn the old and beautiful Armenian language, this textbook will help you reach your goal and enjoy the experience.”

Svetlana Ghazaryan Wilson, International Center for Language Studies (ICLS), Foreign Service Institute, USA

Beginning Armenian presents easy to understand vocabulary in Armenian that makes the language accessible to novice learners of all ages and anyone with a general interest in the Armenian language. The exercises, also presented with accessible vocabulary, emphasize everyday conversation and real-life situations (acquaintance, family, occupation, study, etc.) and the textbook is organized in a clear and unencumbered style.

The logical connection between the lessons, the repetitions and novelties in the exercises make the textbook interesting and enjoyable for the user. This book is recommended for university students, all beginners, and anyone with a general interest in the Armenian language.”

Ishkhan Chiftjian, University of Hamburg, Germany

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