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The Armenian Studies Program (ASP) at the University of Michigan is one of the largest and most prestigious academic institutions dedicated to advancing Armenian Studies outside of Armenia itself. As a result, the program has attracted a large body of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and scholars who are either directly working in Armenian Studies or who are invested in the intersections between Armenian Studies and a wide array of other fields. While academic interest in Armenian Studies is arguably greater than ever thanks to ASP’s organization of conferences and public lectures, until recently there has been no institutional space for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and scholars to meet regularly, discuss their own research, and engage in productive intellectual exchange. 

In 2012, former ASP graduate students Michael Pifer (Comparative Literature) and Alison Vacca (Near Eastern Studies) tried to address this problem. “We wanted to create a forum which would allow those interested in Armenian Studies to meet formally and informally to share their work,” Pifer said. “At the same time, we wanted to include the greater UM academic community in these meetings as much as possible.”

Thanks to a generous grant from the Rackham Graduate School in the fall of 2012 Vacca and Pifer founded the Multidisciplinary Workshop for Armenian Studies (MWAS). Since then MWAS has received grants for continuing its work. The current coordinator of MWAS is Jeremy Johnson (PhD Candidate in the Interdepartmental Program in Anthropology and History). Professor Kathryn Babayan, director of ASP, for the past three years has agreed to serve as the faculty sponsor of the new interdiscplinary group. While MWAS is not directly related to ASP, it seeks to compliment the programming that ASP offers in different ways as well as provide new opportunities for scholars to collaborate on campus. 

Perhaps most importantly, MWAS has and will encourage graduate students to write regularly and workshop their dissertation chapters, conference papers, works-in-progress, and article drafts in a supportive atmosphere. MWAS will also help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to enrich their own multidisciplinary vocabularies while discussing cutting-edge articles and monographs from a variety of perspectives, thus breaking down the disciplinary insularity which exists within Armenian Studies. 

Finally, MWAS invites scholars who utilize Armenian sources in their own scholarship, yet who are traditionally considered beyond the realm of Armenian Studies, to present their own research in public lectures and graduate student-run workshops. As a result, MWAS aims to enrich the research and scholarship of local students and scholars within Armenian Studies, while at the same time broadening the field of Armenian Studies by including new voices in these discussions, and, as a result, bringing Armenian Studies to wider critical discussions in the greater academic community. Vacca and Pifer hope the workshop will make a positive contribution to the intellectual community at U of M for years to come.