Vigen Galstyan Reviews "Firdus: The Memory of a Place"
Vigen Galstyan, Director of the Film Heritage Department at the National Film Center of Armenia, reviews the book 'Firdus: The Memory of a Place" edited by Tigran Amiryan. The review has first been published in the 28th issue of Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies. The full review is available on Academia.edu.
[Appropriately], "Firdus: The Memory of a Place" is a work imbued with a sense of urgency and belatedness. It positions itself equally as an act of rediscovery, preserving and also of engaging in an activism that strives to confront the rhetoric of erasure by salvaging the Memory of a Place, if not the Place itself. Rather than limiting the publication to a uni-directional intellectual itinerary, the editor employs a multi-vector strategy by including a bricolage of texts and visual materials. His analytical, theoretically-formulated essay is followed by shorter pieces that tackle aspects of the cultural identity of the district from sociological, architectural, urbanist and feminist angles. In addition, the book is enriched with oral testimonies from the neighborhood’s residents, accompanied by a wealth of archival photographs, documents, and evocative illustrations by Harutyun Tumaghyan and Armine Shahbazyan. The sheer scope of the book’s documentary research is the pivot around which the authors construct their arguments, and the raw power of the former would be sufficient to make this collective work into one of the more historically valuable publications on Yerevan in recent times. Yet, what truly elevates this study from previous surveys of Armenia’s urban environments is the radically unique conception of Yerevan as place that Firdus introduces. Bypassing the mytho-poetic or dry historiographic traditions that have dominated Soviet-Armenian narratives of the capital, Amiryan’s book approaches the city, first of all, as an arena of trauma, loss and perpetual transformation. Firdus is outlined as a microcosm of Yerevan’s biography – of both its conquests and its defeats – all of which have left legible traces upon its muddled body. It is this Benjaminian re-discovery of the social space of Firdus as a series book reviews of interpellations that inform the reading of the district as text. The latter factor, allows us to see Firdus not just as an urban conundrum, but as a space imbued with an irreplaceable poetics of lived experience
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