Журнал Фронтирных Исследований (Sep 2020)

‘In Russia We are Muslims, In Turkey We are Gyavurs’: Fluid Identities of the Armenian-Speaking Muslim Hemshils

  • Nona R. Shakhnazaryan

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 5, no. 3
pp. 51 – 71


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The study examines the process of re/formation of social, ethnic, and religious identities in the Caucasian Black Sea frontier. It resulted in empirical validation of constructivist paradigm. The author tries to elucidate the creative process of ethnic identity formation, which is, according to the presented empirical data, directly linked to socio-economic surrounding of the group. Admittedly, the Hemshils serve as a vivid example of fluidity and flexibility of social identity. The study tries to show how Hemshils’ ethnicity has been shaped by their historical destinies and how they represent it in their everyday life. Living in the borderlands, subsequent bitter experience of deportation, legal disabilities and social deprivation in the receiving societies have predetermined unstable and situational quality of Hemshils’ ethnic identity. The last few decades have been crucial for survival of Hemshils’ communities. New social conditions set the stage for the re-articulation of their ethnic self-identification. Actually, each member of the group may virtually choose between the habitual Turkish option, ‘domestic’ Hemshil or ‘lost’ one, as they have suddenly realized, and some of them regained their Christian-Armenian identity. The versatile dramatic experience tends to foster fluid type of identities redefining and reiterating them repetitively. The aim of the research is the ethnographic description of the discoursive contexts of those unstable changes. The research addresses social scientists and students as well as anybody who cares of how social identity is molded.