An all-day conference in Los Angeles, to be held September 23, will explore ways that Armenian Diaspora communities can more efficiently and effectively interact with their homeland to promote social and economic progress.
The central theme of the conference, Innovate Armenia 2017, is “rethinking, relearning and reimagining identity, language, history and technology.” The gathering is organized by the University of Southern California’s Institute of Armenian Studies.
A key to change is shaping a “global Armenian identity,” said Salpi Ghazarian, the institute’s director and the driving force behind the annual conference, which is in its third year.
“Victims of genocide lived through the 20th century with a particular kind of mindset. In the 21st century, Armenians have a state, and are thriving around the world,” Ghazarian said in an email interview with EurasiaNet.org. “This mandates a change in imagining and thinking about everything.”
“On the international level, technology and cheap transportation have also changed the way societies live and nations interact. And they are particularly useful for a nation with a huge Diaspora,” Ghazarian added.
The discussion at the conference on the scope of a global Armenian identity will be led by David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist, and his brother Adi, the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review. The conference will promote the notion that embracing a global identity would have tangible benefits for Armenia’s social and economic development, given that Diaspora communities and the homeland are, in Ghazarian’s view, “completely interdependent.”
Ghazarian believes a global character should feature “all aspects of our [Armenian] identities – birthplaces, host countries, homeland, the legacy of the homeland before the Genocide, being born in Armenia, not born in Armenia – all of that can be part of one identity.” She also suggested that a rethinking of Armenia’s place in the world would be useful. “Given Armenia and the nature of the fragile Caucasus, it also means embracing our identity as part of a Caucasus culture,” Ghazarian said.
Moving forward, a challenge for the Innovate Armenia initiative will be to create mechanisms to put the ideas debated and formulated at the conferences into practice. According to Ghazarian, annual conferences have succeeded in creating a community interested in promoting change that numbers in the thousands. “This community needs to be corralled to have greater impact, to see and create tangible opportunities to make more change,” she said.