Anthropology of Lost Cities: Mental Mapping of Shushi/Shusha and Hadrut, Nagorno-Karabakh

Nona Shahnazarian
Event Sponsor
CREEES Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies
Encina Commons
615 Crothers Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Dr. Shahnazarian will discuss her research, which aims to study a palimpsestic memory of ethnic cleansing and pogroms in cities and villages of Nagorno-Karabakh. In case of Shushi/Shusha she will discuss the concept maps of the city through the prism of traumatic events in a comparative perspective in 1920-2020, comparing the multiple experiences of forced relocation, massacres, wars through the method of conceptual mapping, oral history and the study of individual biographies. Skeptical in the beginning, however, in the course of the investigations it proved that mental maps are an astonishingly useful method not only for the study of space but also for studying memory and emotions.

The study is based on in-depth interviews with displaced people from the Hadrut region and town of Shushi/Shusha of Nagorno-Karabakh. They include both men and women who used to live in Shushi/Shusha, Hadrut villages and city-center prior to the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. The method through which the interviews were collected is the use of mental maps: the interviewee is requested to narrate her/his life in her/his respective village while drawing their own map of the village or city (see example in annex). Interviews were conducted in Armenian and in Russian. Some of the questions asked were: “what were your favorite places in the village/ in Hadrut?” “where is your home? Where do you feel home?” “did you feel safe in your village/ in Hadrut prior to the 2020 war”? “Where and when was the last time you felt the happiest?” “If you were given the possibility to return to your village, would you return? And under what circumstances?” The people interviewed represent a vast array of professions, age-categories, and origin. It is also worth mentioning that some interviews were collective with several members of a family taking part in them. 

Nona Shahnazarian is a senior research fellow at the National Academy of Sciences, Yerevan, Armenia and Center for Independent Social Research, St. Petersburg, Russia. She was a foreign visiting fellow at at Armenian Research Center, Dearborn-Michigan University, USA (2015) and at Stanford University (2016-2017). She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Russia, Armenia, Georgia, the USA and Nagorno-Karabagh and has published on the issues of gender, war, migration, memory, and diaspora in the Caucasus and Russia. She published her academic books:

In the Tight Embrace of Tradition: War and Patriarchy, 2011. St. Petersburg: “Aleteia” (240 Pp.).

Memory and War: Armenian District through the Lens of Everyday Life. 2013. Kasnodar: Studia PontaCaucasica “Manuscript” (172 pp.).

She runs the regional office of the Women in War Think Tank in Yerevan since 2015. She is currently editing a book volume on intergenerationally transmitted trauma and her own book Between Scylla of Democracy and Charybdis of Security: Life in State of a Limbo.  

This event is part of CREEES’ Armenian Studies Program.

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