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Paging through Photos and Songs: Hayganush Mark and Koharig Ghazarosian's Friendship in Post-Genocide Istanbul

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The Promise Institute for Human Rights and The Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA, in partnership with the UCLA Armenian Music Program under the direction of Movses Pogossian, present “Paging through Photos and Songs: Hayganush Mark and Koharig Ghazarosian's Friendship in Post-Genocide Istanbul” by Dr. Melissa Bilal and Dr. Lerna Ekmekcioglu. This lecture is co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, UCLA Armenian Law Students' Association, Armenian Museum of America, Society for Armenian Studies, and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM (Pacific Time)

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Registration for this webinar is required and free. To register, please click here


In this event, Dr. Lerna Ekmekcioglu (MIT) and Dr. Melissa Bilal (UCLA) will follow the story of a friendship between two Armenian women in Istanbul that endured the hardships of WWI, the Armenian Genocide, and early republican Turkey’s repressive minority politics. Hayganush Mark was the leading Armenian feminist writer of her time and Koharig Ghazarosian was a prominent composer, concert pianist, and piano teacher active in Paris and Istanbul. Their intertwined lives can be traced in photographs, letters, and pages of sheet music. Internationally acclaimed actress, filmmaker, and writer Nora Armani, mezzo-soprano Danielle Segen of the Vem Ensemble, and internationally renowned pianist Steven Vanhauwaert performed and recorded Ghazarosian’s song settings of Mark’s poetry to be premiered at this event. Through this repertoire which was brought back to life as a part of their ongoing project Feminism in Armenian: An Interpretive Anthology and Digital Archive, Bilal and Ekmekcioglu will discuss the ruptures and continuities in Armenian community life in Turkey.


Melissa Bilal

Melissa Bilal is a historian and sociocultural anthropologist specializing in music studies. She is currently Distinguished Research Fellow at UCLA Center for Near East Studies and Lecturer in the Department of Ethnomusicology. She previously taught at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Boğaziçi University, and the American University of Armenia (where she still works as a member of the core team developing the Gender Studies program). Dr. Bilal received her B.A. and M.A. in Sociology at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul and earned her Ph.D. in Music (Ethnomusicology) from the University of Chicago. She was a Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Music at Columbia University and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Orient-Institut Istanbul.

Her recent publications include “Lullabies and the Memory of Pain: Armenian Women’s Remembrance of the Past in Turkey” (Dialectical Anthropology 2019, 43/2), an article that reads Armenian women’s lullabies and narratives of the past as reserves of an affective memory and discusses their potential to critique the neoliberal memory politics in Turkey; Voice Imprints: Recordings of Russian Armenian POWs in German Camps, 1916-1918, a CD project that aims to bring into public audibility the Armenian experience in relation to musicology’s colonial past; My Heart is like those Ruined Houses: Gomidas Vartabed's Musical Legacy (with Burcu Yıldız in Turkish), a volume on one of the founders of modern Musicology.

In 2017, while a visiting scholar of History at MIT, Bilal co-launched the Annual Feminist Armenian Studies Workshop and co-founded the Feminist Armenian Research Collective (FemARC) with Dr. Lerna Ekmekcioglu. Ekmekcioglu and Bilal are also the co-editors of the book A Cry for Justice: Five Armenian Feminist Writers from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Turkey, 1862–1933 (in Turkish) and are now collaborating on Feminism in Armenian: An Interpretive Anthology and Digital Archive, a book (in progress, Stanford University Press) and digital humanities project focusing on twelve Armenian feminist writers who were active in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman contexts and their diasporas.

Dr. Bilal is currently working on her monograph tentatively titled Wake-up Lullaby: Gendered Politics of Indigeneity, Music, and Memory in the late Ottoman Armenian Revolutionary Imagination and the ethnographic research project The Injuries of Reconciliation: Being Armenian in Turkey.


Lerna Ekmekçioğlu

Lerna Ekmekçioğlu is the McMillan-Stewart Associate Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is a historian of the modern Middle East and an affiliate of the Women and Gender Studies Program as well as the Center for International Studies. She specializes on Turkish and Armenian lands in the 19th and 20th centuries. Her work focuses on minority-majority relationships and the ways in which gendered analytical lenses help us better understand coexistence and conflict, including genocide and post-genocide. She is also interested in the history of non-Western feminisms, including Armenian, Turkish, Kurdish, Jewish, and Greek women’s movements. She teaches courses on cultural pluralism, women and war, global revolutions, and women and gender in the Middle East and North Africa. Prof. Ekmekçioğlu is the winner of the 2016 Levitan Teaching Award in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) which recognizes SHASS teachers “who make a profound difference in the educational experience of MIT undergraduate and graduate students.”

Her first book, which came out in 2006, was a co-edited volume in Turkish titled Bir Adalet Feryadı, Osmanlı’dan Cumhuriyet’e Beş Ermeni Feminist Yazar (1862-1933) [A Cry for Justice: Five Armenian Feminist Writers from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic (1862-1933)]. Her first monograph, Recovering Armenia: The Limits of Beloning in Post-Genocide Turkey, came out of Stanford University Press in early 2016. The book offers the first in-depth study of the aftermath of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and the Armenians who remained in Turkey.

Dr. Ekmekcioglu is currently collaborating with Dr. Melissa Bilal of UCLA in compiling a critical anthology of the history of Western Armenian feminism. Titled “Feminism in Armenian: An Interpretive Anthology” this book focuses on twelve Istanbul-born feminists who were active in various parts of the world from 1860s to 1960s. The project also has a digital humanities component, a documentary website that archives these feminists’ published and unpublished work over the years. Dr. Ekmekcioglu is also collaborating with Dr. Kent Schull (Binghamton, SUNY) for an edited volume on the entangled histories of Armenians in the 19th century Ottoman Empire.

Once a semester Prof. Ekmekçioğlu organizes the McMillan-Stewart Lecture on Women in the Developing World.

Sponsor(s): The Promise Armenian Institute, Center for Near Eastern Studies, The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law, UCLA Center for the Study of Women, UCLA Armenian Law Students' Association, Armenian Museum of America, Society for Armenian Studies, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research