Shushi: Mental Maps – New Edition / presentation and panel discussion

The second edition of the “Shushi: Mental Maps'” book has been released as a result of the collaborative efforts of the Cultural and Social Narratives Laboratory (CSN Lab) and the Henrich Böll Foundation Yerevan. The first presentation of the book occurred in 2022, and nearly all copies were taken within a few days following the event. Recently, the second edition was introduced at the "Epigraph" bookstore. 

The interdisciplinary project "Shushi: Mental Maps" emerged in the aftermath of the 44-day war in 2020. It delves into the urban space and everyday life of Shushi, abandoned due to war, drawing from the memories, personal stories, and experiences of displaced Armenians who once lived in Shushi. The book comprises articles that examine memory from various perspectives, in-depth interviews with the people who used to live in Shushi before the war, and mental maps drawn by them. These elements aim to document and preserve the lost city and its memories, preventing them from fading into oblivion.

During the presentation of the second edition of the book, the authors elaborated on the conceptual origins of the research, outlined the methodology, and discussed the challenges they faced during fieldwork in both the wartime and post-war periods. The book's editor, Tigran Amiryan, and co-author Eviya Hovhannisyan shared insights into the book's conceptualization and the emotional challenges involved in conducting research and gathering oral (hi)stories amid the ongoing, unresolved war. They also discussed the significance and reinterpretation of the research in the aftermath of the ethnic cleansing of Armenians that occurred in Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2023. Gohar Stepanyan and Nona Shahnazaryan shared their experience implementing a new research methodology within the project, with a particular focus on mental maps. They discussed the initial challenges encountered and the eventual effectiveness of this approach. Furthermore, they emphasised the therapeutic impact of visualising and reconstructing the city for those who were forcibly displaced from Shushi. The authors also underscored the role of this book in the years following the war, emphasising its significance in collecting and summarising the memory of the lost city that is already being forgotten. They underlined the importance of mental maps in conducting a multi-layered and decentralised study of the urban environment and memory. 

The presentation was followed by a Q&A session centred around the topic, as well as a discussion on the implementation of new research projects using this kind of methodology. The attendees were also given the opportunity to obtain the "Shushi: Mental Maps" book through donations. The "Cultural and Social Narratives Laboratory" will allocate all received donations to organisations and initiatives engaged in addressing the needs and problems of people forcibly displaced from Artsakh.

The content of the publication is the sole responsibility of Cultural and Social Narratives Laboratory NGO and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the Heinrich Boell Stiftung Yerevan Office – South Caucasus Region.  

photos: Anahit Petrosyan (c)