D. Cachoian-Schanz. Archival Collage.
Çüngüş, Turkey—Garni, Armenia—Philadelphia, USA. November 2017

Images from the redacted, archival collage by D. Cachoian-Schanz. June 2016 – present. Cover image by E. Shahinian, Yerevan 2015.

Չünքüşաbaտum (Çüngüşabadoum): The Dictionary of (In)animate Objects and Tales of Hearsay

Art Book, Digital Humanities Project, and Exhibition

A collaborative project with B. Güldoğan about intergenerational trauma and archival redaction.

Prelude. Collisions 1: A 100-year Meeting. Istanbul. September, 2015: An encounter that would change how both of us imagined the small village of Çüngüş and its many afterlives which have taken affective hold of us since 1915. Stories and silences, spaces and their collapses into abjection, and openings through spatiotemporal divides. As two young women researchers working on counter-narrative in text and space, I became acquainted with Bengi while we were both guest students in a course called Gendered Memories of War and Political Violence at Sabancı University. The memory of our meeting remains palpable. I remember fixating on her hands as she spoke. I watched her long fingers as they moved through her subtle, quasi-mechanic gesticulations, as if always unsure of what to do with one’s hands in close proximity to others; a person too taken by outside stimuli and her own curiosities to be distracted by trends, or in taking a moment to recognize her own beauty. She smiled and laughed like my great aunt. Kilometers had separated us by one hundred years and now, she was there standing just a half a meter, a half a second’s distance, before me. Her fingers were so delicate, elegant in their frailty, as they excitedly showed a colored picture of a framed arma christi embroidered on silver and gold threaded sash to the professor who’d invited us both; who’d staged this meeting. “It was in the church, and now it’s hanging on my great aunt’s wall!” I looked on, wanting somehow to claim what was in the picture, go to Diyarbakır and free it from its captivity, its wrongful place, yet knowing it was not mine, and never mine, to either save or claim. The line between one’s impulse for violence and capriciousness is fine, indeed. I would have become the vandal. Already, I was. Still now, her hands seem to tremor ever so slightly. I looked down at my hands and my thick-boned fingers. They could have crushed hers so easily if I held them and squeezed just a bit too hardily. They are capable of such things. But how to crush something I had known for so long? That I had waited so long to confront? A history of the present… in the present. A mirage between an “affirmation and forgetting”… A moment that gestured towards the what-could-have-beens but also, the what-wases and what-always-is-becomings in each moment of a new encounter[1]… Ayşe Gül introduced us, and we looked at each other, not knowing quite where to begin, or how much each of us could already know or say about the other. We did not speak, we looked… the only thing occurring to us—silently embrace. That meeting since began our ongoing four-year long research project and friendship; two women whose lives separated and brought back together over kilometers of stories, silences, time and three continents, by a small Anatolian village known to both by its slightly variant pronunciations: Chunkoush/Çüngüş. (excerpt from Introduction)

[1] David Eng, Feeling of Kinship, 2010. 63-4.

Forthcoming book cover for AWST Press publication by Cinzia D’Emidio

Pre-order in the USA through AWST now!

A Book, Untitled (Գիրք-անվերագիր) by Shushan Avagyan, 2006

Translation Monograph

Eastern Armenian to English by Deanna Cachoian-Schanz

forthcoming with AWST Press (USA) & Tilted Axis Press (UK & world) in 2023. Excerpts can be found at Asymptote and WORDS without BORDERS.

A Book, Untitled, Avagyan’s first of two novels, was written as a literary experiment and published in Yerevan as samizdat in 2006. Over 26.5 chapters of seemingly unrelated vignettes and genres in disparate and unidentified voices, the reader discovers that Avagyan, while writing the novel as a translator’s diary, is also mapping out a larger archival or archeological site: an imagined encounter between two early twentieth-century feminist writers, Shushanik Kurghinian and Zabel Yesayan, whose legacies have largely been obscured and forgotten as a result of the Tsar’s and then Stalin’s regime, and the patriarchal, nationalist rendering of the Armenian literary and historical canons. Kurghinian’s and Yesayan’s imagined encounter in 1926 is juxtaposed with a conversation in the present day between the novel’s unnamed narrator—an archivist and translator referred to as the “typist/writer”—and her friend Lara. Both women are piecing together the forgotten writers’ fragmented stories. The lines that separate the narrative plots, past, present, and imagined, are blurred. Each chapter brings readers a new (part of the) story. There are multiple points of view, yet who, in any given moment, is speaking? Genres overlap: poetry, prose, epistolary, a math equation. Words are censored with blank spaces, authors uncited, text missing or italicized as if still in draft form, and wordplay—or wordwork—abounds. This play conveys a story of loss through vivid poetic verses that invitingly coo to its readers. As a speculative engagement with historical documents and their absences—a praxis similar to what Saidiya Hartman calls “critical fabulation”—A Book, Untitled is a story about the traumatic inner-workings of cultural, governmental, and patriarchal censorship. And sitting with this story, perhaps readers may better understand how losing these writers’ lost legacies in the past has urgent stakes in our present.

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