This article offers an account of Syria’s substantial Armenian diasporic community, concentrating on how it negotiated its integration without assimilation into the larger Syrian society (itself not homogeneous but long dominated by a single political system). The analysis relies on themes and approaches developed by subaltern studies; ideas drawn from it enable us to delineate the trajectory of the diasporan community. Successfully maintaining its distinct cultural identity as a result of the closed nature of the political system, and further buttressed by the religio-cultural barriers between the Armenian Christian community and the Arab Muslim dominant groups, this community has nevertheless accepted permanent subalternization; it has failed to develop its full potential in cultural creativity and political confidence. Neither the technological nor the economic forces emanating from globalization, despite the liberalization policies pursued under the Asad governments, have proved sufficient to change the closed nature of the Syrian political economy. The permanent peripheralization of the Armenians in Syria has meant that they either dwell voicelessly in the realm of diasporan subalternities or exit. The community has declined, in terms of both numbers and vitality, since the early 1960s. This article proposes a theoretical framework that combines studies of diasporan transformation and Albert Hirschman’s analysis of “voice, exit, and loyalty” in order to develop a more complete picture of the evolution of an exilic community into a diasporic community and, finally, its decline and potential dissolution.


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pp. 92-132
Launched on MUSE
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