NAASR Launches Leadership Circle in Southern California
COMMUNITY | MAY 21, 2013 4:30 PM
LOS ANGELES – The National Association for Armenian Studies and
Research (NAASR) launched a campaign for its Leadership Circle of
membership in the Southern California Armenian community on April 13,
at the Pasadena home of David and Margaret Mgrublian.
The evening was organized by NAASR’s Southern California Board members
Bruce Roat and Dr. Gregory Ketabgian, working closely with a dedicated
Following a buffet dinner, the nearly 100 individuals present gathered
to listen to remarks by Master of Ceremonies Paul Ignatius, a dialogue
between Dr. Carla Garapedian and Prof. Peter Balakian, and comments by
members of the NAASR leadership.
`Fifty-five years ago my father got the bug for NAASR to help them set
up endowed chairs at Harvard and UCLA in Armenian studies,’ said MC
Paul Ignatius. Ignatius served as Assistant Secretary of Defense and
Secretary of the Navy during the Kennedy and Johnson presidential
administrations. His father, Hovsep, an immigrant from Kharpert, was
involved in many Armenian causes including efforts at the inception of
NAASR to keep Armenian history alive for future generations. Ignatius,
in his concise and witty opening remarks, emphasized that NAASR
continues to be a uniquely important organization that needs to be
supported by all who value scholarship and increased knowledge about
Ignatius introduced acclaimed documentary filmmaker Garapedian and
writer and scholar Balakian, who engaged in a half-hour-long
discussion on the topic of `Scholarship and the Pursuit of Justice.’
Garapedian and Balakian discussed the fraudulent academic apparatus
supported by the Turkish government to further their project of denial
of the Armenian Genocide. Balakian spoke of the need to counter this
campaign both through scholarship and through the kind of informed
activism that scholarship makes possible. He pointed to the example of
the exposure and shaming of Princeton’s Heath Lowry by Robert Jay
Lifton in the 1990s, when it was found that Lowry was working closely
with the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC, as a key moment in
demonstrating the relationship between academia and the Turkish state.
The publicity surrounding this affair had brought the denial issue out
in the open in the mid-1990s.
Although – or perhaps because – the Armenian Genocide today receives
far greater coverage in scholarly work, on television, and in social
media than in previous decades, denial persists. The discussion turned
to Turkey’s attempt to pressure the Rwanda Genocide Museum to remove
materials on the Armenian Genocide. A last-hour effort by genocide
scholars and writers, including Balakian, who had gathered there to
give a symposium helped to block that effort.
Similarly, in 2005 there was a Turkish-supported attempt in England to
have the Parliament officially repudiate the authenticity and validity
of the Bryce/Toynbee Blue Book (aka The Treatment of Armenians in the
Ottoman Empire 1915-1916). This effort ultimately failed and led to
noted British human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson writing a report
titled `Was There an Armenian Genocide?’ which was highly critical of
Turkish-led denial and British acquiescence.
Revisionist historiography by Turkish and Azeri scholars has picked up
speed and needs a large number of trained scholars to answer their
claims. Garapedian and Balakian stressed the need for financial
support of institutions such as NAASR to enable increased grants to
deserving researchers and scholars, and the importance of continued
`cultural production’ in various media and forums in order keep
Armenian history and culture alive and moving forward.
As Balakian stated at the conclusion: `We need to move into a much
higher level of professionalism, it needs to involve creative thinking
and needs to be proactive. It should be emerging as we walk out
After a lively question-and-answer session, representatives from the
NAASR Board’s Executive Committee were introduced to provide an update
to the audience concerning the present status and future goals of
NAASR. Raffi Yeghiayan, NAASR Board Chairman, welcomed the guests and
introduced Marc Mamigonian, NAASR Director of Academic Affairs, who
briefly reviewed the history of NAASR since its inception in 1955 and
its early efforts to establish the first chair in Armenian Studies at
Harvard and subsequently the second at UCLA. Taking special note of
NAASR’s renewed high level of activity in Southern California, thanks
to the efforts of current board members Roat and Ketabgian, as well as
former board member Dr. Rubina Peroomian, Mamigonian also pointed to
the close working relationship with the Ararat-Eskijian Museum in
Mission Hills, whose director, Maggie Mangassarian-Goschin, serves on
NAASR’s Southern California committee.
Next, he detailed some of the tasks that NAASR performs at the
present, including organizing and collaborating on lectures and other
public programs; providing research/publication grants; maintaining an
extensive library; functioning as a communication hub for scholars;
assisting researchers; distributing books on Armenian subjects;
publishing; and organizing heritage trips to Historic Armenia led by
prominent scholars. As did Garapedian and Balakian, he emphasized that
it is crucial that NAASR substantially increase its capacity to
provide grants and support for scholars and vital projects.
He was followed by Yervant Chekijian, who explained the establishment
of the Leadership Circle as an upper level of annual support, which
will allow NAASR to expand upon the work it currently performs.
Chekijian emphasized the importance of members of the community
showing leadership by taking responsibility for the strengthening of
institutions such as NAASR that support scholarship and preserve
Armenian history and culture.
The evening came to an end with former Chairman Nancy Kolligian
thanking the speakers, the MC and the host, as well as the organizing
committee. After dessert as the guests were leaving, each received a
signed copy of The Burning Tigris by Balakian.