USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate)

First Advisor

Thesis Director: Thomas Smith, Ph.D. Associate Professor, College of Arts and Sciences


University of South Florida St. Petersburg

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Current studies on Armenian identity trace Armenian identity to specific historical events, such as the adoption of Christianity and the creation of the Armenian alphabet. These studies, and the importance they place on Armenian independence, ignore the experience of people who lived under foreign domination, yet still considered themselves to be Armenian, such as those living in the Ottoman Empire. The millet system of the Ottoman Empire sorted Armenians into a distinct group, much like current researchers’ conceptions of Armenian identity as essential. This thesis argues that crafts produced and reproduced identity for Armenians within the millet system. The genocide of 1915 greatly determined the way scholars perceived the entire period of Ottoman control over Armenians, namely as one of conflict. There were numerous examples of collaboration between Ottoman Turks and Armenians. Crafts serve as a physical memory of Armenian identity that was constantly being redefined. Material culture, such as metal work, khatchkars, and textiles, will be analyzed to demonstrate that Armenian identity could coexist, influence, and be inspired by Ottoman culture, countering the narrative of an essentialist Armenian identity. The causes and political implications of the current narrative of conflict will be discussed as well as the role crafts play in Armenian society today, and could theoretically play in the future.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Honors Program University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

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