"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, May 18, 2020

Catching up with the Armenians

If you read my first book on the papacy, or my book last year on the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, then you will know (with more detail than you could possibly want!) just how deep my admiration and love for the Armenian Church is. I focus primarily on their utterly unique ecclesial structures, but there is so much to admire in their forbearance in the face of a singular history of suffering and genocide, in their liturgical and theological traditions and, perhaps mundanely, in their hospitality and food which I have been very graced to receive on several occasions.

2020 is promising to be a banner year for further scholarly studies about the Armenian Church. We started off in January with Monastic Life in the Armenian Church: Glorious Past - Ecumenical Reconsideration edited by Jasmine Dum-Tragut and Dietmar W. Winkler (Lit Verlag, 2020), 224pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:

Monasticism is a vital feature of Christian spiritual life and has its origins in the Oriens Christianus. The present volume contains studies on Armenian Monasticism from various perspectives. The task is not only to produce historical studies. The aim is also to contribute to and reflect on monasticism today. Authors come from the Armenian Apostolic Catholicosate of Ejmiacin, the Holy See of Cilicia, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the  Armenian-Catholic Church, as well as from the Benedictine and  Franciscan Orders of the Catholic Church. The experts reflected on the glorious past of Armenian monasticism and agreed to evaluate future challenges ecumenically to give more insight into both past and present Armenian monasticism.

In early June, Stanford University Press is bringing out Brokers of Faith, Brokers of Empire: Armenians and the Politics of Reform in the Ottoman Empire by Richard E. Antaramian (SUP, 2020), 224pp.

About this book the publisher offers us this précis:
The Ottoman Empire enforced imperial rule through its management of diversity. For centuries, non-Muslim religious institutions, such as the Armenian Church, were charged with guaranteeing their flocks' loyalty to the sultan. Rather than being passive subjects, Armenian elites, both the clergy and laity, strategically wove the institutions of the Armenian Church, and thus the Armenian community itself, into the fabric of imperial society. In so doing, Armenian elites became powerful brokers between factions in Ottoman politics—until the politics of nineteenth-century reform changed these relationships. In Brokers of Faith, Brokers of Empire, Richard E. Antaramian presents a revisionist account of Ottoman reform, relating the contention within the Armenian community to broader imperial politics. Reform afforded Armenians the opportunity to recast themselves as partners of the state, rather than as brokers among factions. And in the course of pursuing such programs, they transformed the community's role in imperial society. As the Ottoman reform program changed how religious difference could be employed in a Muslim empire, Armenian clergymen found themselves enmeshed in high-stakes political and social contests that would have deadly consequences.
Finally in mid-July we will have the publication of Russia's Entangled Embrace: The Tsarist Empire and the Armenians, 1801-1914 by Stephen Badalyan Riegg (Cornell University Press, 2020), 328pp.

About this book the publisher provides this blurb:
Russia's Entangled Embrace traces the relationship between the Romanov state and the Armenian diaspora that populated Russia's territorial fringes and navigated the tsarist empire's metropolitan centers.
By engaging the ongoing debates about imperial structures that were simultaneously symbiotic and hierarchically ordered, Stephen Badalyan Riegg helps us to understand how, for Armenians and some other subjects, imperial rule represented not hypothetical, clear-cut alternatives but simultaneous, messy realities. He examines why, and how, Russian architects of empire imagined Armenians as being politically desirable. These circumstances included the familiarity of their faith, perceived degree of social, political, or cultural integration, and their actual or potential contributions to the state's varied priorities.
Based on extensive research in the archives of St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Yerevan, Russia's Entangled Embrace reveals that the Russian government relied on Armenians to build its empire in the Caucasus and beyond. Analyzing the complexities of this imperial relationship―beyond the reductive question of whether Russia was a friend or foe to Armenians―allows us to study the methods of tsarist imperialism in the context of diasporic distribution, interimperial conflict and alliance, nationalism, and religious and economic identity.

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