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Mariam's Tattoos: The Afterlives of a Humanitarian Photograph

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Loutfie Bilemdjian, 17-years-old, from Aintab, United Nations Archive at Geneva

Virtual book talk by Professor Elyse Semerdjian, Robert Aram and Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University.

This event is organized by the Armenian Genocide Research Program of the Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA and co-sponsored by the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, the UCLA Barbra Streisand Center for the Study of Women, the Ararat-Eskijian Museum, and the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies

Wednesday, November 15, 2023
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Pacific Time)

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Foremost among the images of the Armenian Genocide is the communal memory of tattooed Islamized Armenian women. Blue tribal tattoos that covered face and body signified assimilation into Muslim Bedouin and Kurdish households. Dr. Elyse Semerdjian will discuss her book Remnants wherein tattooed and scar-bearing bodies reveal the larger history of gender and genocide. However, she will focus her discussion on contextualizing a single 1919 humanitarian portrait of a young woman named Mariam Azarian. While collecting and accessioning process left the genocide victim’s name in oblivion, Semerdjian will showcase her methodological approach to the subject of tattooed Armenian women and the possibilities for recovering information from a mutilated post-genocide archive. 


Elyse Semerdjian is a social historian of the Ottoman Empire whose research focuses on the experiences of women and the empire's Armenian subjects. She has authored “Off the Straight Path”: Illicit Sex, Law, and Community in Ottoman Aleppo (Syracuse University Press, 2008) and Remnants: Embodied Archives of the Armenian Genocide (Stanford University Press, 2023) as well as several articles on gender, Ottoman Armenians, urban history, and law in the Ottoman Empire.

Semerdjian received her M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and her Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University. She served as Dumanian Visiting Professor in Armenian Studies in The Department of Near Eastern Cultures and Languages at the University of Chicago and was awarded a Cornell University Society for the Humanities Fellowship on the subject of “Skin” in 2016. In 2022, she received a German Research Grant with the “Religion and Urbanity” Research Group at the University of Erfurt, Germany, to support new research projects on Aleppo. She will begin writing a history of the city's Armenian community from Ottoman rule to the present disappearance of Armenians from the post-war landscape.

Sponsor(s): Armenian Genocide Research Program, Center for Near Eastern Studies, UCLA Center for the Study of Women, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, Ararat-Eskijian Museum