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Accepted Paper:

Viral backgrounds: intimacy and iconography in the Armenian Diaspora  
Rik Adriaans (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper compares the circulation of souvenirs and internet memes in the Armenian diaspora in Los Angeles. Whereas souvenirs bring an idealized past into the intimacy of domestic space, internet memes are shown to reconfigure this relation by launching present-day domesticity into public culture.

Paper long abstract:

This paper compares two regimes of image circulation in the Armenian diaspora: the material regime of souvenirs and the digital regime of diasporic internet memes. The diasporic household in Los Angeles is analyzed as a multi-generational assemblage permeated by both material and digital forms of circulating visual culture. Whereas souvenirs from Armenia bring the public iconography of an idealized past into the intimacy of domestic space, the internet meme unleashes everyday tensions and sources of embarrassment into diasporic public culture. While the producers of souvenirs in Yerevan are engaged in pictorial practices that consist of imagining the homeland as seen from the perspective of diaspora tourists, the practices of montage of second-generation Armenian-American producers of internet memes engender an emergent reflexive patriotism that is demystifying in its unveiling of everyday problems in the community. The 'going viral' of the backgrounds of diasporic life, however, leads to periodic attempts at its containment, especially when sources of embarrassment risk spilling over into mainstream public culture.

The accelerated dialectical movement between public and intimate visual forms enables a rethinking of the relation between cultural intimacy and public culture, as the circulation of diasporic internet memes is shown to redraw the boundaries between these realms. The manipulation of national iconography through everyday practices of montage also reconfigures the experience of diasporic time and space, as controversial features of present-day American-Armenian popular culture take on an iconic status comparable to that of the pantheon of national heroes of the past endorsed by diasporic establishment.

Panel P065
Reassembling the visual: from visual legacies to digital futures [VANEASA]
  Session 1