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Die Bezeichnung «experience» im Werk John Deweys

Eine Untersuchung zur historischen Semantik im sozialwissenschaftlichen Kontext

von Udo Ohm (Autor:in)
Dissertation 327 Seiten
Open Access


Die Arbeit stellt einen Beitrag zur historischen Semantik des amerikanischen Englisch dar. Der Verfasser beschreibt den schwer greifbaren Sinn von experience im Werk John Deweys. Den Sinnbeschreibungen liegen systematische sprachwissenschaftliche Analysen ausgewählter Schriften zugrunde. Es wird aufgezeigt, wie der Sinn von experience durch den spezifischen Gebrauch, den Dewey von sprachlichen Mitteln macht, in den Schriften je neu hervortritt. Sprachtheoretisch knüpft die Untersuchung dabei an Vorarbeiten zum Phänomen der semantischen Innovation von P. Ricoeur an. Methodisch folgt sie der von C.S. Peirce angeregten Analogie zwischen den logischen Schlußverfahren und den Stufen des Forschungsprozesses. Die Analysen stützen sich auf umfangreiches, im Register aufgeführtes Belegmaterial.


  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Conceptual Framework of Armenianness
  • Chapter Two: The Operationalisation of the Data Analysis
  • Chapter Three: Armenians in the History
  • Chapter Four: The Reproduction of Armenianness in Turkey
  • Chapter Five: The Reproduction of Armenianness in Lebanon
  • Chapter Six: The Reproduction of Armenianness in Britain
  • Conclusion: What Is Armenianness?
  • Appendix A: The Turkish Version of the Events of 1915
  • Appendix B: A Note on Data
  • Appendix C: Maps of the Armenian Population
  • Appendix D: Photos
  • List of Figures
  • Bibliography


My Journey

On the research training day that I attended as a part of my orientation at the University of Exeter, one of the speakers mentioned the importance of keeping a research journal. At first, I did not understand how a diary would help me accomplish my PhD goals. However, and since then, my research diary has not only shown the interesting sources I found, but also helped me to evaluate my progress and relations with the research topic and participants I met during my fieldwork. Some might prefer to write their experiences and notes on proper notebooks or diaries. However, my research diary consisted of scrap papers and sticky notes that were written in libraries, cafes, trains or during interviews. Even though this method entails additional effort to organise the notes, I have continued to do so. Personally I think it is the best method to show ‘reflexivity’ of researchers on certain issues and topic. Throughout the following chapters and sections, the reflexivity element can be observed, and it maintains the readers’ interest.

‘… Can I ask something if you do not misunderstand me? Why do you want to research on Armenian identity? We almost have disappeared…’ said Özgür who I met in Kinali, summer 2011. I never imagined that his innocent question would play a significant role in my research and its design later on. When I left him in Kinaliada, I took a boat to İstanbul and began to think about his questions, realising that I did not have proper answers. Of course, I already presented my proposal in doctorate workshops and a few informal meetings, but it started to look worse the closer I got in İstanbul. For this reason, I decided to establish a few steps to get myself into the research topic. Now, as a PhD student at the end of this exhausting road, I argue that working with established steps is crucial not only to show how the research project has evolved, but also to put forward my relations with the participants and others in this field who try to understand how Armenianness is reproduced in diasporic spaces.

The first step of my journey was by ‘awakening’ through the same types of questions as Özgür asked. While I was looking for new participants, I was questioned about why I was looking for Armenians, how I decided to study the Armenian diaspora or if I was Armenian. These were the most popular questions deriving from either simple curiosity or academic purposes and needed to have proper explanations to justify the research project not only to me but also to the readers. In this process, my experiences encountering questions and finding ←11 | 12→proper explanations led me to think about why Armenian communities in various geographies should be studied, and their academic value. On the other hand, this process forced me to confront my previous experiences and relations. As an ordinary middle class Turkish student, my relations with the Armenian community were highly limited until the end of my undergraduate studies. I spent all my educational life in public schools in Ankara and did not have any ‘different’ friend or neighbours. In other words, I did not have the chance to meet members of the Armenian community, which is frequently described as ‘Loyal Nation’, ‘Skilful’ or ‘Traitorous’ depending on narratives in history books in Turkish secondary and high schools.1 For me, the Armenians were only in exam questions. However, Özgür’s innocent questions compelled me to awaken to this community.

I should mention that deciding a research topic about Armenians is not an easy decision. I never thought that working on the Armenian diaspora and identity without having ethnic connections would be an exhausting effort. If it is taken into consideration, research students in ethnicity studies tend to focus on ethnic groups that they know the best. Generally, they examine ethnic groups they share similarities with. On the other hand, I, as an ‘outsider’ researcher, had to spend much more time in the field to ensure that I did not fall into the trap of a ‘top-down’ Orientalist analysis.2 In this research, the techniques of in-depth ←12 | 13→interviews and participant observation are used as main research methods to understand the reproduction of Armenianness and its components in diasporic spaces. The technique of the in-depth interview allows us to hear social actors’ stories, experiences and feelings, which are the things that determine the boundaries of the social reality through open-structured conversations (Burgess, 1984). These conversations can be seen as data worthy of consideration as they give clues as to how social actors construct Armenianness. They demonstrate the participants’ experiences rather than reflecting the researchers’ concerns.

Unlike structured interviews, surveys and in-depth interviews, the technique of participant observation encourages researchers to take active roles and involvement. The field, unlike textbooks, is infinitely vast and variable. It is expected that researchers should interact with people and collect data as much as they can during a specific period. As is understood, researchers have the flexibility to shape their own participant observations in terms of its duration and ways. Accordingly, I shaped my participant observation experiences as follows: I focused on several sites, such as university campuses, social clubs, churches, youth clubs, exhibitions, cultural festivals, seminars, museums, celebrations and commemorations, in order to observe Armenianness and its construction process among the youth. In each site, I tried to collect clues about components of Armenianness in everyday life through informal interviews and participating in social events. This, of course, led me to access a great variety of data not only about Armenianness, but also various topics about the Armenian communities. The fieldwork conducted took me into the participants’ world.

As a part of the research strategy, I have followed some undergraduate courses with Armenian students, took language classes with ethnically Armenian people and attended some discussions in seminar groups and also social events, which are considered important points in the Armenian history by diasporic Armenians. This technique allowed me to complete my own ‘awareness’ process without repeating previous stereotypes.

After this awakening and awareness stage, my journey carried on with identification progress. On the one hand, I focused on previous academic works ←13 | 14→consisting of the keyword ‘Armenian’ for the literature review showing the academic gap in the field. On the other hand, I tried to follow main debates among Armenian communities/diaspora about identity, social and political issues. This helped me to find an ‘unstudied’ research topic and more importantly to enrich the academic value and originality of the research project through applying different methodologies. In this identification progress, I realised that any topic about Armenian communities, whether Armenians or non-Armenians researched them, could be politicised effortlessly. Even simple topics (about dishes or place names) can be heatedly discussed. Therefore, this atmosphere is a good example of Foucault’s famous quotation ‘… everything is political’. This ‘being political’ affects research agendas and strategies of researchers who focus on certain topics. Previous works approached the Armenian identity from specific points of view, such as history or politics. Additionally, some disciplines such as anthropology and sociology almost cease to produce academic works about Armenians and Armenian culture due to a lack of interest or financial problems. According to the National Dissertation Database in Turkey (Ulusal Tez Merkezi, 2020) and British Library (Ethos, 2020), there are 549 and 95 dissertations, respectively, that possess the keyword ‘Armenian’. These works are mainly categorised in the libraries of history, politics and law departments. As the literature review will show, it can be argued that these works cannot help us to understand Armenianness within the context of identity even though their titles consist of the word of ‘identity’.

Spending time in the identification process not only gave a chance to evaluate previous processes, but also forced me to read postmodern texts about identity, ethnicity and nationality. This allowed me to see areas that were unstudied, and to re-examine Armenianness that was taught without considering the ‘complexity phenomenon’. As Morin conceptualises, reality does not comprise a single phenomenon. It relates to meanings/interpretations, so there is more than one reality and all can be true at the same time. In this vein, identity does not originate from causes, rather it is a representation of cognitive, emotional, historical and denominational processes (Özdoğan et al., 2009: 29).

This complexity feature of ethnicity triggered me to pass another stage that I call maturation. In this phase, the motivations of the research project and answers for Özgür’s original question ‘why am I studying Armenian identity?’ became much clearer. In other words, in this phase I decided the research topic. I began to think on the concept of complexity with various aspects such as youth, diaspora, comparison and case studies by referring to the example of Armenian communities. These aspects, on the one hand, contribute to the originality of the research project. On the other hand, they help us to understand different ←14 | 15→interpretations and experiences of Armenianness at various levels and spaces. After analysing the current literature about Armenians, ethnicity and diaspora studies and experiences gained in the field, it was decided that a reproduction of Armenianness among youngsters in Turkey, Lebanon and Britain would be the research topic.

The term of diasporic space is a remarkable concept. It provides us an unusual space where we can observe different types of identity constructions. Contrary to the nation state, national borders and national identity, which came into use with modernisation and industrialisation, ethnicity and ethnic culture in diasporic space can be maintained in different ways. As Anthias (1998) states, ethnicity (ethnic identity) becomes a matter and is promoted in diasporic space, but it does not always mean conflict with host states. In other words, diasporic identity is a symbol of reactions against assimilation (that is sustained consciously and unconsciously) and efforts of maintaining ethnic culture and ethnicity while consolidating with an identity that is imposed by host lands. This makes members of diasporas multicultural and hybrid. It is believed that diasporic spaces are the best at reflecting how ethnicity matters for ‘ordinary Armenians’, those who have various interactions, variances and different life dynamics.

Apart from a few works in the current literature about Armenian communities, the term ‘diaspora’ is considered exceedingly static and institutional. Most of the academic work about the Armenian diaspora tends to interpret diasporic identity with groupism and does not focus on its constructions. Putting it differently, the Armenian diaspora has not been studied through introducing formal and informal construction methods. As Erikson (1993) argues, informal construction is a key to understand the bottom up dynamics [nationalism] because we can observe how people construct and interpret ethnic/national/religious identity.

In addition to this, working with Armenian diasporic communities frequently involves entering into political issues and does not deal with ethnicity as it exists in normal life. As Özdoğan and Kılıçdağı state (2011) the term of ‘diaspora’ has a notorious reputation among Turkish statesmen and in public and perceived as monolith structures even if there are serious fragmentations and different political orientations. For this reason, most works about Armenian diasporic communities do not reflect the differences, internal dynamics and tendencies among Armenian people.

It should be pointed out that the term ‘Armenian Diaspora’ is related to the tragedy of 1915 and political problems between Turkey and Armenia. Most of the time, it is brought to the agendas of foreign parliaments (particularly in France and the USA due to significant Armenian populations) and parliamentarians’ ←15 | 16→political manoeuvres to captivate voters having Armenian origins. This causes prejudices within the Turkish public and academia. The term of diaspora is interpreted differently in the Turkish context to describe groups of people/institutions that have enmity towards Turkey. It is generally alienated and refers to a lobbyist or interest group seeking to recognise the events of 1915 as genocide and to pass some sanctions in foreign parliaments (Şimşir, 2005). Similarly, it is perceived as a group of people fighting against the ‘denial campaign of Turkey’ and preserving ethnic/national/religious identities in strange places among Lebanese Armenians. It could be assumed that the polarised usage of diaspora does not help us to put forward a social sphere of diasporic space.

As will be seen in the following chapter, the diaspora is a highly dynamic notion that has been evaluated throughout time (Bhabha 1990; Hall, 1990; Gilroy, 1997; Anthias, 1998; Cohen, 2008). Although the original usage of diaspora was to describe the journeys of the Jewish people, nowadays the term has been enriched and includes various dynamics. It is sometimes used to describe social networks within transnationalism and globalism, and sometimes it is seen as a subject of social mobilisation (Miles, 1989; Gilroy, 1997; Brah, 1996). It should be noted that diasporas are also clusters of human populations and seem to be social groups which have countless motivations and goals. In this vein, it is useful to revisit Sokefeld’s analogy about diasporas and ethnic/religious groups.

According to Sökefeld (2006) diasporic communities exist at the same time in which ethnic components such as language, religion and sense of ‘we-ness’ are shared. Diasporas can have similarities with other social groups. However, Brubaker (2005) warns that liberation in the usage of the term of diaspora may lead the term to be meaningless and to become ordinary. He tries to say that diasporas have unique characteristics and should be treated differently. He could be right; however, it should be highlighted that not every ethnic is considered as a diaspora. They sometimes overlap each other and share similar features (Figure 1). Here, it could be useful to mention typologies about diaspora to minimise critiques. In the literature of diaspora, Safran’s definition (1991: 83–84) and Cohen’s typology (2008: 18) can contribute to understanding of diaspora. According to Cohen (2008), diasporas can be observed in different forms such as victim, labour, imperial, trade or de-territorialised. By standing on their definitions, it could be argued that dispersion, if willingly or forced, is the most unique character of diasporas. It allows maintaining ethnic awareness amongst subsequent generations in ‘host lands’ – non-historic geographies (Safran, 2004; Cohen 2008). Some scholars such as Tololyan, Cohen and Safran tend to add ‘consciousness of diaspora’ to definitions of diaspora (Ben-Rafael, 2010).

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Fig. 1: Features of diaspora

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In the following chapters, it is possible to observe how Lebanese and British cases show similarities with Cohen’s typology. They can be perfect examples for victim and labour diasporas.3 However, Turkish case does not fit into classic definition of diaspora as Armenians remain to live in Turkey.4 However, it can be a good example for ‘internal diaspora’. According to Barna, internal diaspora is ‘…formed as a consequence of historical processes. In the case of the members of internal diasporas events that caused their minority status just happen(ed)… [internal diaspora] is the phenomena of living in the same place despite of a changed political and ethnical medium’ (2010: 60). In the example of Armenians of Turkey, political changing can be observed clearly. Despite their political and economic privileges in the Ottoman Empire, their populations declined dramatically to 147.000 (McCarthy, 1983; Demirel, 2005).5 Additionally, the Armenian community lost political aspects and means accordingly. For this reason, the Armenian community in Turkey can be considered as an internal diaspora. Turkish case can be added into the scope of the research along with Lebanese and British cases too.


ISBN (Paperback)
Open Access
Frankfurt/M., Berlin, Bern, New York, Paris, Wien, 1998. 327 S.

Biographische Angaben

Udo Ohm (Autor:in)

Der Autor: Udo Ohm arbeitet gegenwärtig am Sprachenzentrum der Universität Gesamthochschule Kassel. Seine Arbeitsschwerpunkte sind historische Semantik, Gesprächsanalyse, Persönlichkeit und Zweitsprachenerwerb sowie Selbstlernmedien.


Titel: Die Bezeichnung «experience» im Werk John Deweys