Welcome to the informal blog page of Sebouh David Aslanian, professor of history and the first holder of the Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair of Modern Armenian history at UCLA.

I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia into a small Armenian community with deep historical ties to Ethiopia. Like that of many Ethio-Armenian families, mine fled its birthplace of three generations in the aftermath of the Ethiopian revolution during the years of military dictatorship and “red terror” in the mid-1970s and immigrated to the United States. After briefly frequenting a junior high school in Long Island, I attended the Jumeirah American school of Dubai (the United Arab Emirates) in 1979 and subsequently attended high school, Cegep (college), and McGill University in Montreal. My masters training in historical studies and political science was at the Graduate School of New School for Social Research (NSSR) in New York City where I had the privilege of studying with such greats as the late Eric Hobsbawm, the anthropologist Talal Asad, and now my UCLA colleague Margaret Jacob. After a period of proofreading and copy editing in NYC in the mid-1990s, I enrolled in a PhD. program at Columbia University’s Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC, now MESAAS) department and specialized in Armenian Studies. I defended, with distinction, my dissertation, “From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: Circulation and the Global Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa, Isfahan,” in 2007. Selected as the best dissertation in the humanities that year at Columbia, my dissertation was later published as a book by the University of California Press in 2011 and was the recipient of several awards, including the PEN USA award for the most outstanding first book of the year from UC Press and the Houshang Pourshariati Iranian Studies Book Award, Middle East Studies Association (MESA), 2011.

As an enthusiastic and devoted Professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), I spend my time conducting research, mentoring graduate students, and teaching classes in Armenian, Middle Eastern, and global history at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. I specialize in the history of the Armenian diaspora communities of the early modern period and take particular pleasure in working on communities in the Indian Ocean (predominantly in India) and the Mediterranean (especially in Venice and Livorno). My blog posts below address various facets of my researches into the history of these communities. What follows are mostly off-the-cuff, informal reflections I wrote down during my research trips to Europe and Asia both to ward off boredom when not in the archives but also to make my passion for studying the past accessible and relatable to ordinary non-specialized readers. with an interest in the history of Armenians as they moved around the world and created and recreated homes far away from their place(s) of origin. The blogs were written to be shared on my Facebook wall and try to negotiate the delicate balance between scholarship that is academically dry and writing that is more engaging. I have mostly kept their original “vernacular” flavor only modifying  typos and other egregious errors. I hope that you enjoy reading some of these  travel notes and scholarly musings jotted down in the course of my mobility from archive to archive.

Of Signets and Seals

December 29, 2018 Shared epistolary practices between Julfan Armenians and other Iranians included the “material conditions of letter writing”1 recently explored in James Daybell’s fine study of early modern English […]