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Intimacy and exposure – the Armenian “tun” and Yerevan’s public space

Susanne Helma Christiane Fehlings (Department for Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 7 July 2015



In contrast to the dominant accounts in post-Soviet studies that see public and private as two spheres existing in parallel, the purpose of this paper is to argue that in Armenia the public-private dichotomy can be better understood as a spectrum of different kinds of interactions between the state and private actors/social groups representing different sets of socio-cultural values, which are mirrored in Yerevan’s city planning and housing.


The data derives from long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Yerevan. To analyse the data set the author used methods common in social and cultural anthropology. The theoretical background derives from urban anthropology (Liu), theories on housing (Carsten and Hugh-Jones), the anthropology of values (Dumont), and the anthropology of states (Herzfeld) linked to the debate on modernity.


The author demonstrates that basic cultural concepts, norms, expectations, rules, beliefs, and values currently take effect on both sides (public and private/state and people), and that personal networks in Armenia are no longer used to trick an alien state, but also used by the state elites to gain advantage. The degree of intimacy of social relations thereby structures urban space and behaviour.


The paper looks at the public-private dichotomy in post-Soviet states from a new perspective, which is inspired by the anthropology of (socio-cultural) values, and argues that cultural intimacy (Herzfeld) is – simultaneously – a unifying and a separating fact in the relationship of states and people.



Fehlings, S.H.C. (2015), "Intimacy and exposure – the Armenian “tun” and Yerevan’s public space", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 35 No. 7/8, pp. 513-532.



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