Armenian-American Literature Khachig Tololyan
Ethnics aspire to inclusion in the larger polity even as they struggle for exclusion on their own terms, for the right to draw and patrol communal boundaries of their choice, to nurture and maintain certain differences, to build identities rather than to have collective subject positions assigned to them by the dominant culture. This paradox of desiring not the full inclusion that is assimilation but an exclusion of their own is central to their collective lives, which improve as the opportunities afforded by full participation in the heterogeneity of mainstream economic, political, cultural, and sexual life become available. Ethnics seek participation as citizens in the political culture of the host land, in part, to earn the right to represent their homelands; and they seek to participate in the cultural production of the host land, in part, to acquire the ability to construct and circulate representations of themselves, rather than to be represented by others. Inevitably, the self-representations they create are haunted by the paradoxes of simultaneously seeking sameness and difference, inclusion and exclusion.
An analogous anxiety of exclusion also lingers at the margins of this overview of the literary production of Armenian Americans. Any overview becomes possible only through a series of exclusions. Some of these are common to all panoramic enterprises: not all works in a given category can be included, sampled, and analyzed. Other exclusions are peculiar to certain ethnic formations,
I am grateful to Professor Lorne Shirinian ( Department of Literature, Royal Canadian Military College) for his ideas and bibliographical assistance and to Professor Ellen Rooney ( Department of English, Brown University) for her critical reading of an earlier draft.