Susan Pattie, Leader, Pilot Project, Armenian Diaspora Survey.
When our teams visited the 4 cities of Boston, Cairo, Marseille and Pasadena, one question kept reappearing in each place. What is this FOR? Why are you doing a survey?
We, the ADS team, are driven by curiosity and long-term interest, as well as a certain love of the diaspora as our home – but over these 18 months of the Pilot Project, we have shifted from taking our aims for granted to a clearer look at the motivations behind this study.
The Armenian Diaspora Survey aims to gather clear and tangible information about the contemporary diaspora. Asking Armenians about their thoughts about Armenian identity and related issues of belonging as Armenians and as citizens of different states, we seek to create a resource that gives a voice to those taking part and which forms a snapshot of the diaspora today. This is the first time that such a study has been done on this scale with extensive team-work and expertise behind it. The data and its analysis can be used by scholars for better understanding and as a foundation for further research. It can also be used by leaders of the diaspora and of the Republic of Armenia for practical information about how to effectively serve Armenian communities.
What have we learned from the Pilot Project of the ADS? With substantial results of over 800 questionnaires and 200 interviews, there is much to consider. Given the many million Armenians in the diaspora, this is a small percentage of those whom we hope will take part over time but the Pilot has helped us to formulate questions, re-formulate, and listen to people’s thoughts. We will present and discuss what we’ve found so far in regular blogs and articles but here are a few thoughts to begin with.
The continuation of the Armenian diaspora as an important and meaningful space was marked as “fairly” to “very” important by 94% of respondents, making this the most “unanimous” of answers across the communities. In line with this, 84% of respondents felt it was important to help diaspora communities in the Middle East. This is significant as so often the focus of funding, of study, of general attention seems to be either the Genocide or the Republic of Armenia. The respondents showed that they are interested in all of these and that the diaspora is equally important. The Republic of Armenia is “fairly” to “very” important to 90% of respondents and 75% have visited at least once. 93% intend to visit (again for some).
Unsurprisingly, respondents said that Armenian language, history and religion were important to themselves and to Armenian identity generally – but variations appeared between the cities and further questions revealed broad variations in practice. Although our set of respondents in the 4 cities seem to be more active than perhaps a broader population of Armenians, 73% claimed no active affiliation with any Armenian political organization. However a majority said they were active in other Armenian organizations such as the AGBU or Hamazkaine or others. Christianity was believed to be an important part of Armenian identity (including Apostolic, Evangelical and Catholic respondents across the 4 communities) but 14-16% attended church weekly or monthly while 70% felt it is important to be married in an Armenian church. Some 43% of respondents felt that women should be ordained in Armenian churches while 30% had no opinion. These topics and others will be discussed and contextualized in future blogs.
Overwhelmingly, Armenians in each community told us what our purpose was – to listen to them, to give them an opportunity to talk about their past and future as individuals and as Armenians. Many ways of being Armenian were reflected in the responses and for those who took part, expressing this diversity within a common bond was most important. Of course, there were also many similar responses but among the open-ended questions, responses ranged greatly.
The Survey will continue in 2019, visiting new cities. Meanwhile, we are studying and analyzing the results of the 2018 Pilot, learning how to improve our methods. Over the next weeks we will be posting some interesting results from the questionnaires, raising questions about the different shapes that "belonging" takes for each of us. Stay tuned!
The Survey is funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon whose mission includes supporting research and education. It is administered by the Armenian Institute, London.