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Alumni Forum Series: AUA Hosts a Talk on Coffee Rituals

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YEREVAN, Armenia — On May 4, the American University of Armenia (AUA) General Education program hosted a talk with AUA alumna Houry Pilibbossian (BAEC ’19) as part of its monthly event series Beyond the Campus: Alumni Stories

The talk titled “Subhiyeh: Beyond the Coffee Cup” explored the ritualistic features of the morning coffee practice and its impact on the lives of women in Aleppo, Syria. Using an anthropological lens, Pilibbossian explored the related gendered spaces, gossip, and generational changes delving into the concept of ‘women-only’ private spaces that are born out of the need for a support system, the patterns of gossip, and how they weave into community building. She also showed how, with the younger generation, the Subhiyeh ritual has shifted from a private to a public place, comparing and contrasting different generational aspects.

“It is very important for me to write about my hometown, Aleppo — a city that has a lot to offer in the social sciences and humanities,” remarked Houry, adding, “More importantly, I want to explore the everyday lives of women in Aleppo, since it is the beginning to better understand the social aspects of Aleppo. This is a starting point for putting Aleppo back on the map, both academically and socially.” 

Houry’s interest in oral history started at AUA when she took the Oral History: Collecting Life Stories course. The course was a cornerstone for her oral history capstone “The Olive Branch” that explored matrilineal stories of grandmothers, mothers and daughters in the context of culinary traditions and feminism. After graduating from AUA, Houry went on to complete graduate studies in social anthropology at Goldsmith University of London. 

Houry believes that her journey at AUA prepared her to be a more critical researcher. The support she received from AUA faculty and staff paved the way for her to successfully complete her graduate studies. “Without the unconditional love and support from Dr. Hourig Attarian and Dr. Melissa Bilal, I wouldn’t be here today. Because of them I learned to appreciate the importance of women’s voices in academia, and how to do research ethically and wholeheartedly,” she concluded. 

“AUA’s undergraduate graduates go on to engage in research and incredible work in communities. Houry embodies how graduates build upon their AUA education, understanding the world around them, bringing that understanding to others, and leading change,” stated Sharistan Melkonian, AUA’s dean of General Education, adding, “Houry’s talk was the fourth in Beyond the Campus: Alumni Stories series, which aims to encourage interaction among AUA graduates, students, and faculty, and provide opportunities to enhance students’ and graduates’ professional networks. We look forward to restarting the series in the fall.”

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.