The world may have recently become flat for some, but Armenians have longstanding connections to the nations of the world, according to Dr. Sergio La Porta, the new Haig and Isabel Berberian endowed chair in Armenian Studies at California State University, Fresno.
“Armenians have always been part of the fabric of the world,” said La Porta. “They are one of the few cultures 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 arrived at Fresno State this fall after teaching since 2009 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. He joins the Armenian Studies program, which is coordinated by Barlow Der Mugrdechian.
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.”
With an English, Dutch and Italian heritage, La Porta 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 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.
La Porta visit video
Armenian Studies at Fresno State