The world may have recently become flat for some, but Dr. Sergio La Porta, says that Armenians have always been connected to the nations of the world.
“Armenians have always been part of the fabric of the world,” said La Porta. “They are one of the few cultures that are still around after 3,000 years. There are not many cultures that can say that they have had a continuous presence and continuous cultural production for that length of time.”
La Porta was named the new Haig and Isabel Berberian endowed chair in Armenian Studies at California State University, Fresno in the fall of 2009. He formerly taught at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel since 2001.
One reason La Porta considered Fresno State is because of the Armenian presence in the Valley.
“I think Armenian studies programs are really dependant on community support, it enriches the program when you have that interaction,” said La Porta. “There is a strong Armenian Community here and this program is a way for them to be a voice in the University, as well as a way for the University to give back to the Armenian community in recognition of everything the community has given to the Central Valley.”
Collaboration and development of graduate level courses that use an interdisciplinary approach are part of La Porta’s vision for the Armenian Studies Program.
“You can’t just study Armenian studies in isolation,” said La Porta. “It should be studied within a multidisciplinary framework that is able to go beyond borders, beyond languages to get at more universal developments in culture and the humanities.”
The professor with English, Dutch and Italian heritage may seem an unlikely match for Armenian studies. However his life is very intertwined with the culture to which he has devoted his career.
“I wish that I could say I fell in love with my wife and then decided on Armenian studies,” says La Porta. “It’s actually the opposite. I chose Armenian studies, which then allowed me to meet my wife. Now my daughter attends the Armenian school here in Fresno. Armenian culture is a part of every aspect of my life.”
La Porta holds a Ph.D. in Armenian studies from Harvard University and a B.A. in Indology and Middle Eastern Studies from Columbia University. La Porta’s resume also includes study of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel and Sanskrit, Pali and Tibetan during a year abroad at Oxford University.
For more information visit http://armenianstudies.csufresno.edu.