Accepted Paper:

Gender hysteria: the dangers of the emigration of the family and the immigration of homosexuality in post-Soviet Armenia  


Tamar Shirinian (Duke University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will examine the conflation of the term "gender" with homosexuality in the aftermath of the National-Assembly's passing of the Gender Equality Law.

Paper long abstract:

With the passing of the Gender Equality Law in Armenia in May, 2013 came what one journalist referred to as "gender hysteria," a moment where public outcry over the term "gender" opened up anxieties about homosexuality. Gender, a word used in its English form, was previously only used in Armenia by psychologists, sociologists, social workers, and activists. In the summer of 2013, however, it became the mark of perversion and sexual travesty by the "public," a mix of nationalist activists, journalists, bloggers, political parties and organizations. The term became synonymous with other derogatory terms for homosexuals. It became circulated as a verb, noun, adjective and incited a panic over a future in which children would not know their mother from their father - a sexless ("sex" as in male and female, not as practice) and familyless society. This paper is interested in the tension that arose after the passing of this law, which only promised "equality," and around the term "gender" in the context of post-Soviet Armenia: a site of mass emigration, a low fertility rate and a uniting memory of genocide, all leading to uncertainties around population loss and the possibilities of the disappearance of the family. Rumors about the law having "hidden" and "secret" agendas about homosexual propaganda circulated, condensing conspiracy theory into effective and usable knowledge. This paper aims to contribute to an understanding of anxieties around futurity and its link to social and biological reproduction and highlights the importance of gender/sexuality to any state/nation/society building project.

Panel P030
Innovation and continuity in the anthropology of gender and sexuality (Network for the Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality)