Violence and the Archives

Episode 381

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The historian who wishes to study episodes of mass violence is confronted by numerous challenges. Perpetrators of violence may seek to obscure or distort historical events; victims are often left without a voice. Accounts found in newspapers, books, and archives may offer vivid detail but frame events in a biased or incomplete manner. How can the scholar account for diverging narratives or subjective experiences of violence while seeking to separate facts from fiction? In this episode, we speak to Ümit Kurt and Owen Miller, two scholars who have studied the Armenian massacres of the 1890s and the Armenian Genocide through the cases of Aintab and Sasun respectively. We will discuss perils and possibilities of studying violence in the late Ottoman Empire, and we'll learn about the different perspectives on the past that await researchers in the archive and beyond.

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Contributor Bios

Ümit Kurt earned his PhD in history at Clark University in 2016. He is Polonsky Fellow in the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. Dr. Kurt is engaged in his work with examining transfer of Armenian wealth, transformation of space, elite-making process, ordinary perpetrators, collective violence, microhistories, inter-ethnic conflicts, Armenian genocide and early modern Turkish nationalism. He has taught at Clark University, Boğaziçi, Fresno State University, and Sabancı University. He was the recipient of prestigious Armenian Studies Scholarship Award from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow in 2016-17 in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. He is the author of Türk'ün Büyük Biçare Irkı: Türk Yurdu'nda Milliyetçiliğin Esasları 1911-1916 (Istanbul: İletişim, 2012); the co-author of The Spirit of the Laws: The Plunder of Wealth in the Armenian Genocide (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015); editor of Kıyam ve Kıtal: Osmanlı'dan Cumhuriyet'e Devletin İnşası ve Kolektif Şiddet (Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı, 2015); and the author of Antep 1915: Soykırım ve Failler (Istanbul: İletişim, 2018). His translations from Armenian to Turkish and English have been published in Gomidas Institute and Tarih Vakfı. His articles have appeared in Nations and Nationalism, Middle Eastern Studies, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, The Journal of Genocide Research, Genocide Studies International, Patterns of Prejudice, Journal of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, Études arméniennes contemporaines and Culture and Religion. He is now Kazan Visiting Professor in Armenian Studies Program at Fresno State University.
Owen Miller is currently an assistant professor at Bilkent University. He received his B.A. from U.C. Santa Cruz and Ph.D. in International and Global History from Columbia University. He studies histories of upland communities, violence, and colonialism in the late Ottoman Empire. He is currently writing a book on the experiences of the Goodell family in the Ottoman Empire, the American South and Hawai'i.
Chris Gratien is Assistant Professor of History at University of Virginia, where he teaches classes on global environmental history and the Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region of the former Ottoman Empire from the 1850s until the 1950s.
Seçil Yılmaz is a historian of late Ottoman Empire and modern Middle East with an emphasis on gender, sexuality, and medicine. She is currently an assistant professor of History at Franklin and Marshall College.


Episode No. 381
Release Date: 30 September 2018
Recording Location: Cambridge, MA
Audio editing by Sam Dolbee
Music: Zé Trigueiros
Bibliography and images courtesy of Ümit Kurt and Owen Miller


The Armenian Church of Ottoman Aintab. Source: Michel Paboudijan collection

Wheat market of Aintab. Source: Michel Paboudijan collection
The Charitable Administration, 1895. It was formed by Orthodox and Protestant Armenians in order to help victims of the massacres. Source: Badmo’wt’iwn Ah’nt’abi Hah’o’c (History of Aintab Armenians) Vol. I, ed. Kevork A. Sarafian (Los Angeles: Union of the Armenians of Aintab, 1953), 904.
The photo of the Kurdish man who protected the Antep Armenian school appears on p. 348 of the July-December 1915 issue of National Geographic.

Map of Bitlis Province. Source:
Armenian monastery of Surb Karapet (the Holy Precursor, St. John the Baptist) in Mush (Muş İli), Turkey. Source: Library of Congress
General view of Moush [ie. Muş] with mountains of Sasoun. Source: Library of Congress
George Perkins Knapp circa 1887 (d. 1915). Source: Harvard Art Museums
Ottoman General, Zeki Pasha (1862–1943). Source: Wikipedia

Select Bibliography

Ümit Kurt

Bloxham, Donald. The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Der Völkermord an den Armeniern und die Shoah, edited by Hans-Lukas Kieser and Dominik J. Schaller. Zürich: Chronos Verlag, 2002.

Explaining the Breakdown of Ethnic Relations: Why Neighbors Kill, edited by Victoria M. Esses and Richard A. Vernon. Blackwell Publishing, 2008.

Gerlach, Christian. Extremely Violent Societies: Mass Violence in the Twentieth-Century World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Kaiser, Hilmar. The Extermination of Armenians in the Diyarbekir Region. Istanbul: Istanbul Bilgi University Press, 2014.

Kévorkian, Raymond. The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History. London: I.B. Tauris, 2011.

Naimark, M. Norman. Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth Century Europe. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Provincial Elites in the Ottoman Empire, edited by Antonis Anastasopoulos. Halcyon Days in Crete V.A Symposium Held in Rethymno, 10-12 January 2003. Rethymno: Crete University Press, 2005.

Sarafian, A. Kevork. Badmutyun Aintabi Hayots [History of Aintab Armenians], Vol. I and II, Los Angeles: California, 1953.

Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir, 1870-1915, edited by Joost Jongerden and Jelle Verheij. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2012.

Tachjian, Vahé . La France en Cilicie et en Haute-Mésopotamie: Aux confins de la Turquie, de la Syrie et de l’Irak. Karthala Editions, Paris, 2004. 

Üngör, U. Ümit. The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia, 1913-1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011

Klein, Janet. The Margins of Empire. Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2011).

Owen Miller

Arménouhie Kévonian, Les noces noires de Gulizar (Éditions Parenthèses, 2005)

Margaret Lavinia Anderson, "A Responsibility to Protest? The public, the Powers, and the Armenians in the era of Abdülhamit II," Journal of Genocide Research 17, no. 3 (2015), pp. 259-283.

James Reid, Crisis of the Ottoman Empire: Prelude to the Collapse (Franz Steiner Verlag, 2000)

Jelle Verheij, "The Year of the Firman" : The 1895 Massacres in Hizan and Şirvan (Bitlis Vilayet)," Études arméniennes contemporaines 10 (2017), pp. 125-159.

Oktay Özel and Fikret Adanır (eds), Siyaset, Tehcir ve Soykırım [1915: Politics, Deportations and Genocide](Istanbul:Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları, 2015)

Yaşar Tolga Cora, Dzovinar Derderian and Ali Sipahi (eds), The Ottoman East in the Nineteenth Century: Societies, Identities and Politics (London: I.B. Tauris, 2016) 


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