Talk on ‘emptiness and placemaking’ at The Armenian Institute (Հայ Հիմնարկ)

Maria Gunko will be giving a talk on ‘Emptiness and placemaking in small Armenian towns’ at The Armenian Institute in London on Thursday, 13 June 2024, 6.30pm.

When Maria began her ethnographic fieldwork in a small Armenian town in late 2022, people in casual conversation would tell her “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, pertaining 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 of relations between people, space, state, and capital after the collapse of state socialism. The seeming “nothing” is actually a something, produced by the combination of “shock therapy”, liberalization, hectic privatization, and tensions of reterritorialization. During her talk, Maria will lead the audience through life in a place described by residents as being “created out of void” by the Soviet state and “collapsing back into void” after the dissolution of the USSR. Through oral histories and participant observation, she will trace how places devalued by their residents to “nothingness” are nevertheless kept habitable and recognizable by them through constant practices of repair and care. She will also discuss the relevance of the extended Armenian family and diaspora in “placemaking”.

See here for more information and Eventbrite tickets.

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If you would like to find out more about the project or contribute a blog on a resonant aspect of your own research to the Field Reports section of our website, please get in touch by writing to emptiness@anthro.ox.ac.uk.