Our identities are changing in the flux of globalisation. Consequently, the term "diaspora" — once confined to a handful of peoples including most notably Jews, Armenians, Greeks and Chinese — has become an oft-repeated word through which people try to understand these new transnational identities in a world that no longer seems to abide by set boundaries and "fixed" cultures. This essay highlights the dynamics of changing identities and the intellectual and personal responses to it. By weaving a personal narrative with historical developments, and theoretical insights with the Armenian case study, Tololyan poignantly demonstrates how the transnational "moment" is affecting us all.
The topic is particularly pertinent to the work of the Armenian Institute. This educational charity is devoted to the study of, and contributes to, Armenian diasporan existence in the context of multicultural societies and hybrid identities. The Institute's activities reflect the reality that ethnicity and culture are constantly changing and evolving. Its programmes combine the rich Armenian heritage which we have inherited, with the contemporary context in which we all live. In a little over a year of operations, the Armenian Institute has made significant contributions to the cultural and academic life of Londoners who are interested in Armenian-related activities. It has organised a series of lectures and workshops — for adults and children — on music, maps, history, art, and books. In 2003, it will host a major international conference entitled "Identities Without Borders," and launch a library based on the collection of the late Professor Charles Dowsett of Oxford. In short, the Armenian Institute not only analyses but also embodies the dynamics discussed by Khachig Tololyan in these pages.
This Occasional Paper is based on the inaugural address given by Professor Khachig Tololyan at the launch of the Armenian Institute on 14 June 2001. It was delivered at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and co-sponsored by the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism. The Armenian Institute is grateful to the AGBU London Trust for its generous contribution towards the organisation of this event, as well as to numerous individuals whose volunteer work enabled the launch and continuous functioning of the Institute.
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Armenian Institute Executive Committee