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Boris Adjemian, Sossie Andézian et Talin Suciyan
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Ce texte est l’avant-propos des actes du colloque international La genèse de Jérusalem : espaces construits et communautés historiques, organisé au monastère arménien des Saints-Jacques à Jérusalem, du 2 au 4 juillet 2014.

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1This issue of Études arméniennes contemporaines is composed of the papers presented during the international conference “The Making of Jerusalem: Constructed Spaces and Historic Communities,” which was held in the Calouste Gulbenkian Library within the Armenian Convent of St. James in Jerusalem, on 2-4 July 2014. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon) and the St. Sarkis Charity Trust (London) have supported a series of conferences in the same location for the past 7 years. That conferences series, organized primarily thanks to the efforts of Kevork Hintlian and Claude Mutafian, has focused on Armenian Studies. In 2014 the conference, open to scholars in all areas of the humanities and area studies, explored various aspects of the making of the city of Jerusalem with particular attention to its historic communities and their concepts of – and relationship with space. The reasons behind the choice of such a topic were manifold. From the outset, one primary consideration was the desire to continue to hold these conferences within the Armenian convent of St. James. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s Armenian Communities Department is invested in helping to advance Armenian studies by stimulating intellectual activity and by lending visibility to such work within the Armenian quarter of Jerusalem. This quarter occupies an exceptional place in the Armenian diaspora not only for its long history, but also because of the consequences of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1916 and the ongoing international and local political conflicts and humanitarian crises of the twentieth century. The conference organizers soon came to the conclusion, however, that the history of this quarter and of the Armenian presence in Jerusalem more broadly could not be considered in isolation from the socio-cultural environment in which they are embedded. Hence, the conference brings together histories of Jerusalem that include the perspectives of different actors, from the city’s residents to pilgrims and travelers, clerics and institutions. In such a contested space as Jerusalem, in which different communities, religions, and their various confessions lay claim to sites, buildings, and even to stones, community relations have had a direct impact on contemporary politics. Thus, the goal of this conference was to shed light on the construction of spaces viewed as historical processes, in conjunction with the construction of confessional, social, and political communities, to consider, that is, the complementary nature of these two processes. As such, “The Making of Jerusalem” conference was in line with the approach developed by Maurice Halbwachs in his seminal book on space and memory, La topographie légendaire des évangiles en Terre Sainte: étude de mémoire collective (1941).

2Every research topic has its challenges. Conducting research in and on Jerusalem poses its own unique challenges. One of the main difficulties is the negative impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the collaboration between the scholars of both nations. Physically separated by a wall, they can rarely meet to discuss their mutual approaches of the history of this disputed land, to compare their sources and their different narratives. Therefore they cannot achieve interconnected histories, the importance of which was brought to the fore by developments in the field of history writing. Here emerges the crucial issue of access to archives. In a context in which spaces are highly contested, in which the old city of Jerusalem and also the neighborhoods of Jerusalem outside the walls of the old city frequently materialize as a vast archaeological site, archives have come to be considered as evidence of ownership, paternity, autochthony, and have been mobilized as a fundamental tool of power for different institutional complexes. For example, most of the community archives under the authority of religious institutions are not open to researchers. Their inaccessibility might be due to political reasons, though it is also the case that often the collections are not catalogued, as many of the religious institutions lack the expertise needed for the cataloguing and storing of archival materials. As private archives, they are dependent on private initiatives, either from individuals or NGO’s. Recently, however, some of the communities have agreed to participate in a project entitled “Open Jerusalem,” supported by the European Research Council and led by the French scholar Vincent Lemire, which aims to open Jerusalem Archives to a connected history. Documents are being translated, digitized, and classified. In spite of the limitations imposed by the political situation, scholars are striving to join their efforts in order to create spaces for fruitful debates.

3The variety of papers presented during the conference “The Making of Jerusalem” epitomizes the best possible model of such a scholarly event. Lectures brought together research on state archives, archaeological data, oral sources, iconography, sounds, travel accounts, diaries, and communal archives. In and through such wide-ranging scholarship, the study of the city was disentangled from the standard communal frameworks and narratives. Twenty-six scholars from eight countries attended the conference, including Italy, France, Germany, Turkey, Armenia, Morocco, Israel and Great Britain. Unfortunately, Palestinian scholars were hardly present because of the difficulty residents of the West Bank face in getting permits from Israeli security to enter Jerusalem. Only Khader Salamah, a Jerusalem resident, was able to participate, whereas a renowned Palestinian scholar from the West Bank, Salim Tamari, could not get the necessary travel permit in time to participate on the final round-table. All of the scholars who attended the conference greatly regretted the absence of Palestinian colleagues, whose contributions to the discussions on wide-ranging topics and disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, history, Armenian, Jewish, Palestinian, Ottoman and Islamic studies, were missed.

4Renowned specialists Khader Salamah (Al-Aqsa Archives and Khalidi Library), Michael Stone (Hebrew University), and Reuven Amitai (Hebrew University), inaugurated the opening session of the conference, in which Tigran Zargaryan (National Library of Armenia) also participated. The subsequent sessions dealt with various themes such as the making of Jerusalem’s image and spaces; travel accounts as a source of knowledge; the role of politics in the making of the city during the first half of the twentieth century; the role of Churches, faith, and pilgrimages in the making of the city; the effect of migrations on the construction of Jerusalem.

5Readers will find in the present volume eight articles selected from among the conference presentations. Reviewed by specialists, these articles were then further developed and amended by their authors. With an emphasis on the history of pilgrimages, Anthony Bale interrogates the interactions between Latin and Eastern Christians of the late Medieval period at the Holy Places. Chafik Benchekroun analyzes travel literature, discussing the idealization of Jerusalem in the writings of the early nineteenth-century Moroccan traveler al-Zayānī. Mikayel Arakelyan introduces an illuminated Armenian guidebook to the sacred shrines in the Holy Land from the end of the seventeenth century. Anne Kazazian describes the relationship with Jerusalem experienced at a distance by Armenian pilgrims and the Armenian community in nineteenth-century Egypt. Elsa Grugeon analyzes the making of the Muslim Community in the old city in relation to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in contemporary Jerusalem. Amos Reichman and Vincent Lemire describe and interpret local issues and politics at the Municipality of Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate, during World War II, when this institution included Jewish and Arab representatives. Sossie Andézian analyzes the process which led to the making of the Armenian Catholic Community, one of the numerous Christian communities of the old city, during the British Mandate. Boris Adjemian and Talin Suciyan elucidate how memories contributed to the construction of space and community in the Armenian quarter of Jerusalem after the genocide, through the study of a photographic archive and the history of Armenian orphans and orphanages. Yann Scioldo-Zürcher and Yaron Tsur explain the policies implemented by the State of Israel towards Jewish migrants from Morocco in the 1950s, and expose the attempt of the state to limit their settlement in Jerusalem.

6Although limited to a few case studies, this special issue of Études arméniennes contemporaines aims at widening the scope of knowledge about the fabric of Jerusalem by introducing new topics, new data, and new angles of approach. As to the studies on Armenian Jerusalem, we hope that their integration into the general framework of research on the city will contribute to their opening up to a larger scholarly world and making them more visible.

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Boris Adjemian, Sossie Andézian et Talin Suciyan, « Foreword », Études arméniennes contemporaines, 9 | 2017, 5-8.

Référence électronique

Boris Adjemian, Sossie Andézian et Talin Suciyan, « Foreword », Études arméniennes contemporaines [En ligne], 9 | 2017, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2018, consulté le 24 mars 2019. URL :

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Boris Adjemian

Bibliothèque Nubar de l’UGAB, IMAf

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Sossie Andézian


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Talin Suciyan

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

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Bibliothèque Nubar de l’UGAB

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