Samantha Adalia
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In(Sight) House Talks: “You’re not Armenian enough”

3 min read

YEREVAN, Armenia — On May 2, the Akian Art Gallery at the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted the fifth event from the In(Sight) House Talks series featuring Samantha Adalia’s (BAEC ’23) research project, “You’re not Armenian enough.” The series is part of a larger initiative, Oral History Matters, which aims to amplify the importance of oral history as a research methodology. In(Sight) House Talks spotlights ten oral history-based capstone projects from the In(Sight) House exhibition, which took place earlier in August 2023.

The talk presented Adalia’s research on how Armenian Diasporans deal with moving to Armenia and the types of challenges they face. She also spoke about how her experiences as a Filipino Diasporan growing up in Manila, Kathmandu, and Yerevan led to her process of interviewing seven young Armenian Diasporans and creating a graphic novel to visually represent their stories. The talk was followed by a reading of the graphic novel and a Q&A. 

Adalia’s interviewees represent a wide range of Diasporan experiences, as they hail from or have lived in the United States (U.S.A.), Russia, Syria, Belgium, China, Uruguay, Philippines, and Saipan. The 43-page graphic novel intertwines their stories under common themes such as Armenian and Diasporan identity and adjusting to life in Yerevan, while showing similarities and differences in perspectives.

Adalia explained how Diaspora and third culture kid theories informed her research, as well as the theoretical underpinnings of choosing the graphic novel medium for her project. She also discussed her utilization of oral history methods, such as the in-depth interview and transcription. These enabled her to extensively explore different issues with her interviewees and quote them verbatim in her graphic novel dialogues. She also mentioned the importance of obtaining consent from her interviewees to include their stories and likenesses in the research creation work, which touches upon sensitive issues. Additionally, she outlined the creative process and challenges faced during the technical aspects of drawing and selecting stories from the seven interviews to include in her graphic novel. 

As a non-Armenian, Adalia researched the Armenian Diaspora from an outsider’s perspective. Yet, as she explained in her artist statement, “despite our vast differences, I found that I could connect deeply with them because of the challenges they had with homesickness, adjusting to the local culture and language, and searching for their identity.” Adalia’s talk also touched on the impact of her graphic novel. She mentioned receiving positive feedback from Armenian Diasporans and even a Filipino Diasporan who shared that the work made them feel heard. 

The reading of the graphic novel during the event covered portions of the graphic novel from all seven interviewees, involving vignettes of humorous adjustments to life in Yerevan, questions about identity, and battles with discrimination.  

The event had a multicultural and multinational audience, which included a representative of the Philippine Consulate in Armenia, Filipinos based in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, and Indonesians based in Armenia, as well as participants joining the event through Zoom from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Chicago, U.S.A.; Brussels, Belgium; Amsterdam, Netherlands; St. Petersburg, Russia; Akhaltsikhe, Georgia; and Manila, Philippines. 

The talk fostered discussions about Diasporan identity, Armenianness, and connections between different Diaspora communities. It also highlighted the usage and importance of oral history, combined with the graphic novel, in preserving and presenting narratives that have the potential to reconcile Diasporan and non-Diasporan groups.

The AGBU Papazian Library holds a copy of Adalia’s graphic novel You’re not Armenian enough.

Oral History Matters seeks to dismantle dominant research practices by bringing oral history to the forefront and challenging conventional narratives.

In(Sight) House was an exhibition that spotlighted the research projects of ten students from the English and Communications department, each of whom delved into oral history to explore and narrate stories that resonate deeply with the human experience. The Akian Gallery underwent a transformation during the In(Sight) House exhibition, becoming a symbolic house where each room was dedicated to showcasing the work of a different student. This creative approach allowed visitors to step into the world of each student’s research and experience the diverse stories firsthand.

To stay updated about all upcoming events, follow @oralhistorymatters on Instagram. All In(Sight) House Talks can also be viewed on YouTube @oralhistorymatters.

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 and graduate degree and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.