International conference on Indian Ocean Armenians

International conference on Indian Ocean Armenians

Armenian Church in Madras“Ebb and Flow of the Armenian Communities of the Indian Ocean” is the theme for the next UCLA international conference, Saturday and Sunday, March 17-18, 2007.


Sixteen scholars from Armenia, Europe, and North America will discuss the important commercial, cultural, and intellectual roles of the Armenian communities of Southeast Asia from the seventeenth through twentieth century. The conference, open to the public at no fee, will be held in Young Hall, Court of Sciences 50, on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m and on Sunday from 2:00 to 5:30 p.m.


The Saturday sessions will focus on cultural and intellectual themes, including the current state of the Indo-Armenian community, while the Sunday afternoon session will feature three presentations on the long-distance trade of the New Julfa merchants and their interaction with the mercantile forces in the Indian Ocean and beyond.


The conference is sponsored by the UCLA Armenian Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Armenian History and co-sponsored by the Center for India and South Asia, Department of History, International Institute, Center for Near Eastern Studies, and the AGBU Southern California District Committee. It is the sixteenth consecutive conference in the UCLA series on Historic Armenian Cities, Provinces, and Communities. 


After introductory comments on the “ebb and flow” by Professor Richard Hovannisian, the Saturday morning sessions will be chaired and discussed by Professor Engseng Ho of Harvard University, with five papers: Professor Margaret Sarkissian of Smith College will give an illustrated talk on the Armenian mercantile communities of Southeast Asia; Professor Khachig Tololyan of Wesleyan University will speak on eighteenth-century thought on transforming the Armenians from dispersion to nation; Professor Peter Cowe of UCLA will examine the development of Armenian drama in India; Professor Osheen Keshishian of Glendale Community College will assess the roles of  “Azdarar” and other Indo-Armenian periodicals; and Ph.D. candidate Mana Kia of Harvard University will present Joseph Emin in the context of British colonial policies.


The Saturday afternoon sessions on March 16 will be chaired and commented on by Professor Houri Berberian of CSU, Long Beach. Presenters include Professor Michael Fisher of Oberlin College on an Armenian lady from Agra in London in the early seventeenth century; Professor Bhaswati Bhattacharya of Leiden on the noted Armenian general, Khwaja Gorgin Khan; Dr. Richard Hovannisian on Indo-Armenian notables, with a film on Sir Catchik Paul Chater; Mr. Gregory Aftandilian, a fellow at Harvard University, on American GIs in India in World War II, and Honorable Armen Baibourtian, Armenia?s first ambassador to India, on the present situation of the community.


Extended time has been given for each of the three presentations on Sunday afternoon, March 17, dealing with long-distant merchants and trade. Edward A. Alpers of UCLA will serve as chair and discussant. Professor Sanjay Subrahmanyan, director of the India and South Asia Center at UCLA, will speak on French commercial ambitions and Armenian interlocutors in the seventeenth century; Dr. Sebouh Aslanian of UC Irvine and a co-organizer of the conference, will focus on the role of the New Julfan “Network of Trust,” and Tatiana Seijas of Mexico City and a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University will present Don Pedro di Zaratte, a Julfan Armenian in Mexico City. Discussions will follow each of the conference sessions.


As in past conferences in this series, Richard and Anne Elizabeth Elbrecht of Davis will mount a pictorial exhibit, this one on the Armenian churches, buildings, and institutions of South Asia.


The conference proceedings in this series are edited and prepared for publication by Richard Hovannisian. To date, six volumes have been released: Van/Vaspurakan, Bitlis-Mush/Taron, Kharpert/Tsopk, Erzerum/Karin, Sivas/Sebastia, and Diarbekir-Urfa/Tigranakert-Edessa. The seventh, Armenia Cilicia, is being co-edited with Professor Simon Payaslian of Clark University and will be published in 2007, to be followed by volumes on the Armenian communities of Constantinople, Smyrna, the Black Sea-Pontus region, Kars and Ani, Caesarea, Jerusalem, and New Julfa.


Parking for the international conference on the Indian Ocean communities may be found along Hilgard Avenue (limited space) or in the UCLA Parking Structure 2 ($8.00), entrance from Hilgard at Westholme Avenue. A map of the UCLA south campus (see Young Hall) may be found at  and the UCLA Armenian Studies web site may be accessed at


For further information:
Professor Richard Hovannisian: [email protected]
Dr. Sebouh Aslanian, [email protected]


Photo: St. Mary's (Astvadzadzin) Church, Madras

  1. We received from Hagop Gulludjian a report (PDF format / in Armenian) about the Conference.

    Conference participants
    First row (left to right)
    Tatiana Seijas, Engseng Ho, Houri Berberian, Margaret Sarkissian, Khachig Tololyan, Mana Kia, Osheen Keshishian
    Second row:
    Richard Elbrecht, Michael Fisher, Richard Hovannisian, Sebouh Aslanian, Gregory Aftandilian, Armen Baibourtian, Edward Alpers, Peter Cowe
    Indian Ocean Armenians conference

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