Homeland Pilgrimage: Roots and Routes of Transnational Diasporic Engagement

Project coordination: Dr. Tsypylma Darieva

Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldworks in Armenia and the United States, this study highlights those transnational activities that generate and mobilise new emotional links between diasporic members and the ancestral homeland.  Armenia—usually perceived as a country of outflow migration, shaped by sending labour migrants to Russia and depending on remittances—has recently become attractive for a new inward migratory process.

Transnational flows of money, people, and ideas from economically more developed nations to a post-socialist ‘developing’ country are powered by a new generation of Armenian-American non-profit diasporic organisations. The study examines mechanisms of contemporary mobility and soft means of ‘gaining’ the homeland employed by these organisations and individuals, such as: travel, volunteering, and philanthropy. These interactions build a new pattern of mobility, which I call ‘homeland pilgrimage’. Key figures in this mobility are diasporic activists of Armenian descent who live predominantly in North America: volunteers, philanthropists, young professionals, pilgrims, and tourists. Thus, this book project seeks to contribute to the studies of cross-border transnational mobility at the intersection of return migration, diasporic activism, and pilgrimage studies. The author offers an account of social imaginaries, claims, and emerging infrastructures of a ‘sacred’ journey that transcends classic pilgrimage studies.