Yektan Türkyilmaz & Shoghig Hartmann

Yektan Türkyilmaz & Shoghig Hartmann

Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 5.00 pm - 6.30 pm |
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Writing the History of the Armenian Genocide

Yektan Türkyilmaz
(Duke University / EUME Fellow 2014/2015)
Hear Yektan Türkyilmaz's presentation

Shoghig Hartmann
(Freie Universität Berlin / Houshamadyan)
Hear Shoghig Hartmann's presentation

Chair: Kader Konuk
(Universität Duisburg-Essen / EUME Member)

The year 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide by the Young Turk government in the Ottoman Empire. The controversy over the ‘truth’ of ‘what indeed happened’ is as heated as ever, in scholarly and popular as well as in political discussions. At this historical conjuncture, Yektan Türkyilmaz and Shoghig Hartmann engage in a critical dialogue to unpack the various threads of historical writings on the Armenian Genocide. They specifically discuss the conceptual and methodological implications of i) denialism, ii) genocide stereotyping (particularly around the Holocaust), and iii) regional and global political circumstances for narrative construction.

The speakers draw particular attention to the year 1965, the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, as a decisive historical moment that turned genocide to the main explanatory framework to discuss the massacres. Türkyilmaz and Hartmann delineate how the genocide paradigm itself transformed the narrative fields, memoirs, popular histories and scholarly accounts alike, and helped create virtually homogenous camps of remembering, representation and denial. In doing so, Türkyilmaz and Hartmann will engage in a conversation on the genealogies of fundamental problems in various forms of writing the history of the Armenian Genocide, namely teleology, archival fetishism and obsession with meta-narratives. Locating these historiographical issues within broader debates on violence, trauma and memory-building, they will propose ways of rethinking historical research design and narrative formation for nuanced, that is conceptually poignant and methodologically accommodating, analyses.

Yektan Türkyilmaz is currently a EUME Fellow and lecturer at Sabanci and Bilgi Universities. He received his PhD from Duke University Department of Cultural Anthropology. His dissertation, “Rethinking Genocide: Violence and Victimhood in Eastern Anatolia, 1913-1915”, concerns the conflict in Eastern Anatolia in the early twentieth century and the memory politics around it. It shows how discourses of victimhood have been engines of grievance that power the politics of fear, hatred and competing, exclusionary claims to statehood and territory by Turks, Armenians, and Kurds. Grounded in extensive archival research in American, British, Turkish, and Armenian historical repositories, Türkyilmaz traces how discourses of communal victimhood were generated around the traumatic ordeals in the two decades that preceded the Armenian genocide of 1915-1916, carried out by the Unionist government. Türkyilmaz’s work pays special attention to the nature of political tension and debate among Armenians on the eve of the genocide. His analysis here goes beyond deterministic, escalationist and teleological perspectives on the antecedents of the Armenian genocide; instead, it highlights political agency and enabling structures of the war, offering a new perspective on the tragic violence of Eastern Anatolia in the early twentieth century.

Shoghig Hartmann is the chair of “Houshamadyan”, a project to reconstruct Ottoman Armenian town and village life (Houshamadyan), which she co-founded in 2010. Previously she has worked at the DFG-Research Group "Self-Narratives in Transcultural Perspective" in the Dept. of History at Free University Berlin (2008-2011) and at the same university’s Institute for Islamic Studies (2003-2008) from which she has also received her PhD. Hartmann analyzes the Ottoman history the 19th and early 20th century from various perspectives. She has first looked at the late Ottoman military reforms mainly on the basis of German archival and narrative sources from the viewpoint of the German Military Mission. In her book “Die Reichweite des Staates. Wehrpflicht und moderne Staatlichkeit im Osmanischen Reich 1869-1910” (forthcoming) based on her PhD thesis, she has made extensive use of the materials of the Ottoman State Archives to examine in detail the modernization process of the Ottoman military organisation, military recruitment and the bureaucratic state apparatus from the perspective of the Ottoman central government. In her current research she focuses on the every day life experiences of the populations at the margins of the Empire, this time drawing on a wide range of Armenian autobiographical sources and adopting the micro-historical approach of historical anthropology.  
An interview (in German) with Shoghig Hartmann in zenith 01/15 from 13.04.2015: Die Politik der Leugnung setzt sich bis heute fort

Kader Konukis Professor and Chair of Turkish Studies at the University Duisburg-Essen. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Paderborn University in 1999. Trained as a comparatist in German, Turkish, and English literature, she focuses on the disciplinary nexus between literary criticism, cultural studies, and cultural history. Her research is situated at the intersections between Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities, beginning with the Ottoman Westernization reforms of the early eighteenth century and continuing on to Turkish-German relations in the twentieth century. In examining the context for East-West relations (ambassadorial missions, military adventures, travel, migration, and exile), her work analyzes cultural practices like integration, assimilation, and ethnomasquerade. In her monograph East West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey  (Stanford UP 2010), Kader Konuk investigates the relationship between German-Jewish intellectual exile and the modernization of the humanities in Turkey. In 2004/2005 Kader Konuk has been a Fellow of the Working Group Modernity and Islam (AKMI), the precursor of EUME. She is also member of the EUME Collegium.

Media feedback
Astrid Herbold: Armenische und Osmanische Quellen zum Genozid. Alltag vor dem Völkermord
Der Tagesspiegel 11.05.2015

Audio Recordings