Emptiness and Placemaking in Small Armenian Towns: an Ethnographical Study by Maria Gunko

Armenian Institute

Emptiness and Placemaking in Small Armenian Towns: an Ethnographical Study by Maria Gunko
13 juin 2024   6:30 PM
Armenian Institute
1 Onslow Street London EC1N 8AS United Kingdom
London - United Kingdom

When Maria Gunko began her ethnographic fieldwork in a small Armenian town in late 2022, people in casual conversation would tell her that “there is nothing here” (stegh vochinch chka [ստեղ ոչինչ չկա]). This “nothingness” is similar to other local descriptors – emptiness, abandonment, ruination, lostness, etc. – found throughout the post-Soviet region and beyond. They pertain to life in places losing people, jobs, infrastructures, and welfare. Yet the “nothing here” does not mean an actual absence of things. It encompasses the condition of reordering, the changing relations between people, space, state, and capital after the collapse of state socialism. “Nothing” is actually “something,” produced by the combination of “shock therapy,” liberalisation, hectic privatisation, and the tensions of reterritorialisation.

In this presentation, Maria will lead us through her reading of a place that was described by its residents as being “created out of void” by the Soviet state and “collapsing back into void” after the dissolution of USSR. With the help of oral histories and participant observation, she will trace how these places are nevertheless kept habitable and recognizable by their inhabitants through constant practices of care and repair. She will also discuss the relevance of the extended Armenian family and diaspora in “placemaking.”

This event is held in collaboration with the Emptiness research project, hosted by the Centre on Migration, Policy & Society (COMPAS) in the School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography (SAME) at the University of Oxford, UK, and the European Research Council.

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