Friday, April 2, 2010

Armenianess: The identity stigma

"What kind of Armenian are you?": a question I was asked recently by a fellow Armenian. I was dumbfounded.

It is an infamous, age-old, diabolical question indeed. That question and the answers that follow seem to carry so much stigma. In my humblest opinion, I believe it takes a bit of small-mindedness to inquire about such petty, unimportant intricacies of one's own ethnic makeup.

I have yet to realize or understand what it is about the answer that will effect the current conversation at hand. Will my answer change, enhance, or diminish my valuation as a human being? Will my answer incite negative or positive (and never neutral) judgment on behalf of the inquirer who needs but that answer to stereotype or conclude my whole entire character and worth?

Me? Born in Glendale (gtown), CA...lived in Lakewood, Colorado for almost 4 years.

Mom's family is from Karabakh (present-day Azerbaijan) with ties to Russian ancestry coupled with a completely unintelligible Armenian dialect that only regional natives can comprehend; this makes her an Armenian, Russian, and Turkish speaking "Karabakhsti".

My brother Denis (a very Armenian name indeed :p ) was born in the capital- Yerevan, Armenia. This makes him a "Yerevantsi" or "Hayastanci".

Dad's family is from Iran, he is of the regional sect of "Bulgartsis" (sp?)..1969 marked the relocation of his family back to Armenia to reclaim "pure" Armenian identity, so that future generations are not enmeshed in an "identity crisis"- so that a future loquacious Romina isn't confused as to whether she should deem herself American, Hayastanci, Hayrenadarts (in Armenian means "returner to Armenia"- more specifically for Persian-Armenians), Zimbabwean..etc..

Perhaps I have difficulty with this question because I myself cannot conceive or distinguish one inherent identity for myself. So I refer to myself as a mut or simply reply that my background is a bit-"eclectic"- for lack of a better word.

Saying I'm Armenian-American kind of, diminishes the value of my own long-surviving culture and traditions, and nobody ever wants to replace their inherent bloodline with a pseudo-identity that has so many divergent shared values, borrowed customs, and an exhausting history of colonization that really only veritably confirms that the phrase "pure American" is an oxymoron.

Saying I'm Persian-Armenian is fallacious, because although there are certain divergent dialectical differences in the colloquial language exchange from my dad's side, I know nothing about the culture or tradition and unfortunately do not (yet) have a strong affinity to inquire more about it.

So when somebody inquires as to what "kind" of Armenian I am, stupefied, I ALWAYS have to take a moment to figure out my identity. And there's nothing worse than constantly questioning one's own identity- 21 years in their prime.

The truth is, I was born in China- so I'm naturally Chinese-American. I'm a day late with the April fool's spell, but I suppose next time an Armenian inquires about my make-up, I'll have no choice but to make fun. Because it really is silly to ask, sometimes frustrating, and often times demeaning - breeding only conversational immodesty.

After all, one never asks an American, "what kind of American are you?" It almost sounds insulting, as if the answer you give will bolster or detract one's own perception of you as a human being.

I naturally have lots more to say, but seeing as how I have a lot of readers (-_-), I should probably do the rest of my bantering of such tedious matters in my sleep. Deep down though- this isn't a tedious matter. There's this entire underlying stigma associated with how each classification of "Armenians" compete with eachother- and how stereotypes are associated with the "kind" of Armenian you are. There are -ian vs. -yan last name wars (that developed here in the U.S.). Family culture, etiquette, class, and eloquence is based off of the sect you represent. And one of my personal favorites: the eugenics test- where each "kind" of Armenian fights their Armenian counterparts and prides on being the "purest" form of Armenian (language purity- Western dialect/Armenia vs. regional puritans- Eastern Armenia(ns)...etc). The list of stereotypes and cultural clashings can go on and on. So no, this is not a tedious matter. People who ask want to size up. People who ask want to equate. People who ask want to judge your character by simply knowing a background that cannot tangibly define YOU.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go finish up my Mandarin homework. Zai hui.



Anonymous said...

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Romina said...

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