Being Armenian in Istanbul Today. Lecture by Christopher Sheklian.

2017-11 ConstantinopleAnthropologist and Armenian Deacon Dr. Christopher Sheklian will deliver a lecture at the Zohrab Center on Tuesday, November 7 at 7PM entitled, Sharagans in the City: Being Armenian in Istanbul Today.

Armenians in Istanbul today navigate a city that is undeniably their home, yet often feels exclusionary. People rarely speak Armenian on the street and many of the churches are hidden behind high walls. Yet the Armenians living there do not necessarily feel excluded or discriminated 2017-11 SheklianSharagan.001against. “Bolis” is their home, and they feel a sense of belonging there.

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Dr. Sheklian will discuss the complicated sense of belonging that Armenians feel toward Istanbul and toward Turkey. He suggests that the inheritance of the Armenian Apostolic Church’s liturgy helps many Armenians to navigate the city. Through constant exposure to Armenian sharagans and other hymns, Armenians are able to hear the soundscape of Istanbul as one where they also belong.

Christopher Sheklian, a native of central California, earned his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2017. His dissertation, entitled, Theology and the Community: The Armenian Minority, Tradition, and Secularism in Turkey, was based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork with Armenians in Istanbul. An ordained deacon of the Armenian Church, Dr. Sheklian spent a year as a student and researcher at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New York. He previously attended the University of California, Berkeley where he majored in Anthropology, and he worked as a substitute

Chris Head Shot 1B
Anthropologist and ordained deacon of the Armenian Church Dr. Christopher Sheklian will speak about how the Armenian Church and especially its sacred music affords a sense of belonging to Armenians of Istanbul.

teacher before earning his MA and PhD at Chicago.

This year, Dr. Sheklian is a Manoogian Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan, where he plans to develop the conceptual apparatus of his dissertation by considering the connections between Christology, semiotics, and hermeneutics and to pursue a second ethnographic project with Armenian refugees from Syria and Iraq living in the greater Detroit area.

The lecture at the Zohrab Center will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. The event is free and open to the public. As always, a reception and conversation will follow the lecture.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

An Anthropologist Considers St. Vartan: Faith, Nation and Memory. February 12 at St. Vartan Cathedral

Christopher Sheklian, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Chicago, will be the featured speaker at the annual commemoration of St. Vartan and His Companions (Վարդանանց / Vartanants) on Thursday, February 12 in the Kavookjian Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

The Zohrab Information Center is co-sponsoring the event with St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, with the participation of the Mid-Atlantic Knights and Daughters of Vartan.

Competing Memories of Saint Vartan

Anthropologists study culture and since the adoption of Christianity, the Christian faith and the institutions of the Armenian Church have become part of the very fabric of Armenian culture. But if the Armenian Church is reduced merely to one element of Armenian culture among others, what is the place of faith, devotion, and liturgy? Nowhere, perhaps, is this conundrum most obvious than in competing memories over St. Vartan and the Battle of Avarayr. Was St. Vartan fighting for the existence of the Armenian nation? Or was he a consummate defender of the faith? Can we separate these two things? Moreover, the way we remember and commemorate St. Vartan speaks to the way we ourselves think about the connection between faith and nation. How we remember St. Vartan is not merely a historical matter. To fully grapple with the memory of St. Vartan is to take on the fundamental question of the Armenian nation: its relationship to its Christian faith in the salvation of Christ Jesus.

The Armenian Minority and Secularism in Turkey

Deacon Christopher Sheklian at the Armenian fortress of Hromkla in Turkey. He will lecture at the annual Saints Vartanants commemoration at the Armenian Diocese in New York.
Deacon Christopher Sheklian at the Armenian fortress of Hromkla in Turkey. He will lecture at the annual Saints Vartanants commemoration at the Armenian Diocese in New York.

An ordained deacon of the Armenian Church, Christopher Sheklian is currently completing his doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago entitled Theology and the Community: The Armenian Minority, Tradition, and Secularism in Turkey. His dissertation is based on two years of intensive research and fieldwork in Istanbul and Diyarbakir, Turkey within the Armenian Church and community. The first fruits of his research were recently published in a book chapter entitled, “Venerating the Saints, Remembering the City: Armenian Memorial Practices and Community Formation in Contemporary Istanbul.”

Deacon Shekian is a native of California, having been raised in St. Mary Armenian Church in Yettem, in the Central Valley. He spent the 2011-2012 academic year at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary studying Armenian theology and Armenian Christian culture. Several of his current scholarly projects stem from the instruction he received there.

Deacon Sheklian will speak during a commemorative banquet to which the public is invited. Donation for the dinner is $25 for adults and $10 for children 10 and under. Guests are also warmly encouraged to participate in the Divine Liturgy, which will be celebrated at 6:00PM.

For further information contact the Diocese at (212) 686-0710 or zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or

From the ZIC Photograph Archives. Do You Recognize These Faces?

One of the treasures of the Zohrab Center is its rich collection of historical photographs, some of them from 19th century Armenian communities in western Armenia and the Middle East, many of them documenting the early history of the Armenian community in the United States.

The collection, numbering hundreds of photographs, has grown gradually thanks to the donations of American Armenians going back to the establishment of the Diocese of the Armenian Church over a century ago.

One person working with the ZIC collection is Dr. Joseph Malikian, an expert in 19th and early 20th century Armenian photography and photographers, who has his own vast and precious personal collection of historical photographs, and who published the recent album, The Armenians in the Ottoman Empire: An Anthology and a Photo History (Antelias, Lebanon, 2011). (Read about a recent exhibit from his personal collection of Ottoman-era photographs).

Dr. Malikian recently brought to our attention one of the rare photographs that contains identifying information.

IMG_1346The print, measuring approximately 5 x 7 inches, depicts 8 well-dressed young men standing behind two distinguished gentlemen and an Armenian clergyman, all seated. On the reverse we read the following caption:

Ագ-Շէհիրի դպրոցի բարձրագոյն կարգի աշակերտները իրենց տնօրէնը Լեւոն Աղապապեան, Գարեգին Սրբազանը՝ ներկայիս Պօլսոյ պատրիարք Խաչատուրեանը, Արմենակ Օրմանեան։ 1913-1955.

The students of the senior class of the Ak-Shehir school [with] their principal, Levon Aghababian, Bishop Karekin Khachadourian—currently the Patriarch of Constantinople, [and] Armenak Ormanian. 1913-1955.

Relatively few of the ZIC photographs include identifying captions such as this one.
Relatively few of the ZIC photographs include identifying captions such as this one.

The fascinating photo and caption provide a glimpse into a long-forgotten page in the story of the Armenian people. Ak-Shehir is a city in west-central Turkey that had a small, but vibrant Armenian community far from the larger pre-Genocide Armenian centers hundreds of miles farther east.

Patriarch Karekin Khachadourian, a native of Trabizon, served as Patriarch of Constantinople from 1951-1961. The years “1913-1955” that conclude the caption probably indicate the date of the photograph (1913) and the date that the caption was written (1955).

But who is Levon Aghababian, the principal? And who is Armenak Ormanian? Is the latter a relative of Maghakia Ormanian, the great intellectual and prolific scholar who converted from the Armenian Catholic Church eventually to become Patriarch of Constantinople in 1896?

If you can provide any additional information about these individuals, the photograph, or the Armenian community of Ak-Shehir, please post a note on this blog.

Continue reading “From the ZIC Photograph Archives. Do You Recognize These Faces?”