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Center for Armenian Studies Events

For previous years' guest speakers and topics, please visit the Center for Armenian Studies poster and flyer archive.

We also encourage you to check out a selection of CAS video recordings on our Videos of Past Events page and on our YouTube channel.

CAS Webinar | Life Extempore: Trials of Ruination in Armenia’s Soviet Factories

Lori Khatchadourian, Associate Professor, Department of Near Eastern Studies, Cornell University
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
5:00-6:30 PM
Off Campus Location
Please register in advance for the webinar here:
After registration, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions on how to join the webinar.

The factory ruins that litter Armenia’s urban outskirts constitute a colossal agglomeration of what Ann Stoler calls “imperial debris”. In the wake of the Soviet collapse, they are remnants of a process of aggressive industrialization that thrust Armenia headlong into the age of high modernity. Like other modern ruins, from a distance, these industrial carcasses stand as poignant allegories of failed utopian projects, both socialist and capitalist. But up close, they are sites of improbable livelihood practices that defy familiar critique. Based on archaeological and ethnographic fieldwork in decommissioned Soviet factories across Armenia, this research examines deviant projects at the margins of global capitalism to retain industrial lifeways and make a living under conditions of ruination. ‘Trials of ruination’ refers to the struggle to unlock or forgo the salvage value of Soviet machines and factories undergoing slow, irreversible decay. These trials enlist people into acts of constant improvisation. A ‘life extempore’ is one in which the primary tactic for capturing or forestalling salvage value is perpetual extemporization, doing things one never planned or was trained to do. This talk focuses on the improvisational practices of two extemporists in the cities of Yerevan and Yeghegnadzor, and their efforts to revalue the anachronistic but persistent material world of Soviet industry, a massive accumulation of displaced socialist things out of proper time.

Lori Khatchadourian is Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. Her research centers on the relationship between imperialism and the vast world of material things. As both an archaeologist of Armenia and the Near East, as well as a scholar of the Soviet and post-Soviet Caucasus, Dr. Khatchadourian pursues this concern with the materiality of empire across temporal and disciplinary boundaries—ancient and modern, archaeological and ethnographic. She is the author of “Imperial Matter: Ancient Persia and the Archaeology of Empires” (UC Press, 2016). Her current book project centers on the ruins of modernity in Armenia. Dr. Khatchadourian is co-director of Project ArAGATS and directs the Afterlife of Socialist Modernity project.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Type: Livestream / Virtual
Tags: Armenia, History
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Armenian Studies, International Institute