Before the conversation the participants’ shared statements:
As they collide with the dominant discourse of the national liberation movement and its retreat, Armenian political movements are often reshaped. The ideas informing Armenian liberation came from those in power and were applied from top to bottom. From the legend of liberation to state concepts, they reproduce the agendas of colonial-expansionist policies, and by doing so seal the commonalities of the goals of Armenian liberation and imperialist projects in public perception. The Armenian idea of liberation is entrenched in a chain of imperial-orientalism and nationalism, at the border of which the waves of resistance fade, accepting the legitimacy of this idea of liberation.
In May 2012, two young men firebombed DIY pub in the center of Yerevan, claiming their terrorist act as one for the salvation of the Armenian nation from Turks and gays. A few weeks following the firebombing, a “Diversity March” aiming to highlight the importance of recognizing different ethnicities, religions, and subcultures in the country was attacked by right-wing nationalists, claiming that the march was a “gay parade” that was dangerous for the nation and needed to be stopped. These two actions – now historical phenomena – made up an event in a national imaginary, sparking a new rhetoric of “sexual perversion” (aylaserutyun), and creating fractures and ruptures within a sense that the Armenian nation was and could be singular. Perversion, however, in a wider moral sensibility (which we can term aylandakutyun, commonly used to characterize the moral deviations from a supposed-to-be Armenian propriety), was already part of national consciousness when sexual perversion, and the figure of the homosexual, arrived in Armenian discourse.
To understand the logic of sexual anxiety that has informed debates about queerness – what is often problematically diagnosed as the collective “homophobia” of the nation – might be found in the overlapping of these two senses of perversion. The one is displaced onto, sometimes condensed with, the other. A fear/terror of a sociopolitical reality that lacks an order that feels like order becomes, through various logics, a fear of sexual difference. If the violence of the particular logics of accumulation by dispossession and the demoralization of the market have produced a crisis in the social reproduction of the nation, the fetishization of the figure of the homosexual comes to stand in for these forms of violence. What are in actually-existing reality political and economic issues become rendered, in the narratives of the nation’s aylandakutyun, issues of morality, producing a space of ambivalence.
This is the result of particular political and social mechanisms that deserve to be interrogated. If we probe further into the question of why the homosexual and sexual perversion more widely have become such prioritized figurations of the problem of the nation, we discover sensibilities around singularity within an imaginary of Armenia as a nation-family. The social, political, and economic destruction by the post-Soviet ruling class of a working system that made for the possibilities of life and its reproduction, rather than fomenting mass class-based struggle, has created a longing for Daddy: a strong Daddy (sometimes a Stalin), a national caretaker (a paternalist patriarchy), a proper leader and proper governance based on moral sensibilities. Anxieties around aylaserutyun as well as aylandakutyun both stem from feelings around improper reproduction – as a psychic spatiotemporal desire for a singular moral path that has become too many deviating multiplicities, a search for a singular Symbolic order, a Name-of-the-Father.