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Unearthing, Discovering, Unlearning: Armenian Indigeneity in Turkey

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The Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA and the Political Violence in the Modern World cluster course present "Unearthing, Discovering, Unlearning: Armenian Indigeneity in Turkey" by professor Talin Suciyan of the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich. Ruken Sengul, Ph.D., will provide discussant commentary followed by Q&A. This lecture is co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, the UCLA Working Group in Memory Studies, the UCLA Department of Comparative Literature, and the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA Law.

Friday, May 6, 2022
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Pacific Time)

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Genocide is the utmost manifestation of colonial violence and therefore it is the most durable method of building institutionalized structures. Not all colonial powers committed genocides. Yet, many of the tools of governance utilized by the US and Turkey can be traced back to colonial practices and genocidal violence. One of the most tragic aspects of this structural and institutionalized violence is the fact that Armenians born and raised in Turkey are forcibly denied access to their indigeneity. Their indigenous knowledge and history which comes from being an annihilated population in their ancestral lands make their experience very similar to that of indigenous Americans. Being deprived of one’s own history, not knowing the names or whereabouts of one’s relatives, missing the basic knowledge about one’s roots and unlearning the catastrophic experiences of one’s ancestors over the last 100 years continue to perpetuate those structures of denial built through genocide.

A complex phenomenon for the descendants of survivors raised in this habitus of denial is that they are immersed in and taught denial of their own history. The decision to seek out ways to access these personal histories is a challenging choice to make. However, once made it opens up a new world of meanings and experiences, encouraging us to look into the darkest periods of human history. This entails discovering, remembering, experiencing and reflecting upon the experiences of Armenians during post-genocide Turkey. This process includes the routine self-imposed book burnings, the continuing flow of kaghtagan (perpetually exiled) Armenians from the provinces to Istanbul, and the discovering of Islamicized relatives. It also means to rediscover the silenced and ignored Armenian intellectual heritage in Turkey. The survivor generation of Armenian intellectuals struggled against a state which had annihilated their own families and people is one which could have served as an inspiration to Armenians and non-Armenians alike, had their stories not been repressed and marginalized. The struggle of these intellectuals was inherently selfdefeating, and yet also relentless and inspiring all at the same time; just like the Armenian existence in Turkey itself.


Talin Suciyan, is associate professor (Privat Dozent) of Turkish studies at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. She is the author of the The Armenians in Modern Turkey: Post-Genocide Society, History and Politics (2016). Co-winner of Der Mugrdechian Outstanding Book Award of Society for Armenian Studies in 2017, the book has been translated into Turkish and German. Suciyan's second book project, titled "Either save us from this misery or order our death" (Ya derdimize derman ya katlimize ferman): Tanzimat of the Provinces, examines extensively the Archives of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople in the mid-nineteenth century. It argues that the structural and institutional changes and their repercussions in the provinces throughout the Tanzimat were the precedents for the collective violence that followed.


Serap Ruken Sengul is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA. She is an anthropologist whose work focuses on gender and sexual formations of sovereignty, nationalism, kinship, violence, memory and displacement in the Kurdish borderlands of Turkey, Iraq and Syria. Dr. Sengul earned her doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, and was a Manoogian Simone Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Armenian Studies Program at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. She is a faculty-member of the cluster course Political Violence in the Modern World that co-sponsors this event.


Sponsor(s): The Promise Armenian Institute, Center for Near Eastern Studies, Comparative Literature, UCLA Working Group in Memory Studies, Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA Law