LOS ANGELES—Richard Hovannisian, Adjunct Professor of History at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and Professor Emeritus of Armenian and Near Eastern History at UCLA, spoke about his life as a “Half-Immigrant” as part of the University of Southern California Dornsife Institute of Armenian Studies luncheon talks on Wednesday, Jan. 28.
At the invitation of the Institute, Professor Hovannisian, a recognized scholar of the early 20th century, including the genocidal years, and the first Republic of Armenia, diverged from his field of study, to talk with USC History Department Chair Professor Bill Deverell about his own life and memories as the US-born child of new immigrants. He spoke about growing up in the San Joaquin Valley, living within and taking for granted the community of immigrants who were able to re-create their agrarian lifestyle. He remembered growing up Armenian at home, and trying to fit into the majority culture at school.
Professor Hovannisian reminisced about several decades of the Armenian community’s integration into California society — from the days of discrimination against Armenians in Fresno, to becoming a large ethnic community in Southern California, years later.
Running through Professor Hovannisian’s memories was the subtext of the impact of dislocation, deportation, genocide and survival on a minority community. The man who was the first to engage in gathering oral testimonies of genocide survivors remembers that first generation speaking little about their memories and experiences — either not to want to burden or driven by an assumption that no one cared.
He referred to his grandson, Garin Hovannisian’s recounting of the story of his family. Family of Shadows traces three generations of Hovannisians in California — and Armenia.
This was the fourth luncheon talk in this academic year. Previous speakers included Dr. Paul Haidostian, President of Haigazian University, Dr. Fatma Müge Göçek of the University of Michigan and Harout Ekmanian, a Syrian-Armenian journalist.
The event can be viewed at the USC website.
Established in 2005, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies supports multidisciplinary scholarship to re-define, explore and study the complex issues that make up the contemporary Armenian experience — from post-Genocide to the developing Republic of Armenia to the evolving Diaspora. The institute encourages research, publications and public service, and benefits from communication technologies that link together the global academic and Armenian communities.