Portraits of Unbelonging



| The Ottoman archives contain just over a hundred photographs that look like old family portraits, but they were created for an entirely different purpose. They document the renunciation of Ottoman nationality, "terk-i tabiiyet," by Armenian emigrants bound for the US and elsewhere. As our guest Zeynep Devrim Gürsel explains, these photographs were "anticipatory arrest warrants for a crime yet to be committed"--the crime of returning to the Ottoman Empire. Gürsel's research goes far beyond the story of the small number of photographs that remain as she has documented over four thousand individuals who went through the process of "terk-i tabiiyet." In this Ottoman History Podcast-AnthroPod collaboration, we talk to Gürsel about her research project on the production, circulation and afterlives of these photographs titled "Portraits of Unbelonging." It is a double-sided history that explores not only the context of Armenian migration and policing during the late Ottoman period but also the experiences of those pictured and their descendants following their departure from the Ottoman Empire. (Recorded August 2019) This episode is dedicated to the memory of Mary Lou Savage (née Khantamour).


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The Ottoman archives contain just over a hundred photographs that look like old family portraits, but they were created for an entirely different purpose. They document the renunciation of Ottoman nationality, "terk-i tabiiyet," by Armenian emigrants bound for the US and elsewhere. As our guest Zeynep Devrim Gürsel explains, these photographs were "anticipatory arrest warrants for a crime yet to be committed"--the crime of returning to the Ottoman Empire. Gürsel's research goes far beyond the story of the small number of photographs that remain as she has documented over four thousand individuals who went through the process of "terk-i tabiiyet." In this Ottoman History Podcast-AnthroPod collaboration, we talk to Gürsel about her research project on the production, circulation and afterlives of these photographs titled "Portraits of Unbelonging." It is a double-sided history that explores not only the context of Armenian migration and policing during the late Ottoman period but also the experiences of those pictured and their descendants following their departure from the Ottoman Empire. (Recorded August 2019)

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Mary Lou Savage (née Khantamour).

For a transcript of this episode, see cross-listed post with Anthropod.




Contributor Bios

Zeynep Gürsel is a media anthropologist and Associate Professor in the department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. She is the author of Image Brokers: Visualizing World News in the Age of Digital Circulation (University of California Press, 2016) and the director of Coffee Futures (2009). She researches photography as a tool of governmentality in the late Ottoman period.
Chris Gratien is Assistant Professor of History at University of Virginia, where he teaches classes on global environmental history and the Middle East. His first book about the environmental history of the Cilicia region of the former Ottoman Empire from the 1850s until the 1950s is forthcoming.
Beth Derderian is currently an assistant professor of anthropology & museum studies at the College of Wooster. Her research examines the politics of art and museums on the Arabian Peninsula.

Credits


Episode No. 502
Release Date: 9 June 2021
Recording Location: Istanbul
Music credits: Borrtex - Realization; Dr. J.K. Sutherland - Armenian Melodies; Chad Crouch - Taut; Dr. J.K. Sutherland - Huseini Tacsim; Dr. J.K. Sutherland - Huseini Ashiran Dance; Chad Crouch - Skatepark; Zabelle Panosian - Togh Tcherke Blbool Sound production by Chris Gratien
Additional thanks to Sam Dolbee, Susanna Ferguson, Matt Ghazarian, and Marios Falaris
Images and bibliography courtesy of Zeyenp Gürsel


Further Listening
Armen T. Marsoobian 255
8/4/16
Armenian Photography in Ottoman Anatolia
Sato Moughalian 471
8/13/20
David Ohannessian: Art, Exile, and the Legacies of Genocide
Sylvia Alajaji 461
4/23/20
Music and Silence in the Armenian Diaspora
David Gutman 433
11/14/19
The Politics of Armenian Migration to North America
Sarah Abrevaya Stein 434
11/20/19
Family Papers and Ottoman Jewish Life After Empire
Randa Tawil 478
9/28/20
Zeinab's Odyssey

Images



Agbabian Family of Sebastia/ Sivas, 1908. Source: Ottoman Archives



Shamshoian Family of Kharpert/ Harput, 1908. Source: Ottoman Archives



Simonian Family of Samsun, 1906. Source: Ottoman Archives



Select Bibliography


Bulbulian, Berge. The Fresno Armenians : history of a diaspora community. United States, Press at California State University, Fresno, 2000. 

Çelik, Z., E. Eldem, eds. Camera Ottomana: Photography and Modernity in the Ottoman Empire, 1840-1914. Istanbul: Koç University Press, 2015. 

Çora, Y., A. Sipahi, and D. Derderian, eds. The Ottoman East in the Nineteenth Century: Societies, Identities and Politics. London: I. B. Tauris, 2016. 

Deringil, S. Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire. Cambridge University Press 2012. 

Gutman, D. The Politics of Armenian Migration to North America, 1885-1915: Sojourners, Smugglers and Dubious Citizens, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019. 

Hanley, W. Identifying with Nationality: Europeans, Ottomans, and Egyptians in Alexandria, New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. 

Hovannisian, R., Armenian Tsopk/Kharpert (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2002) 

Karpat, K. “The Ottoman Emigration to America, 1860-1914.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 17, no. 2 (1985): 175–209. 

Kieser, H. Iskalanmış Barış: Doğu Vilayetleri’nde Misyonerlik, Etnik Kimlik ve Devlet, 1839-1938, translated by Atilla Dirim, Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2005.   

Marsoobian, A. Fragments of a Lost Homeland: Remembering Armenia. London: Tauris, 2015. 

Mirak, R. Torn between Two Lands: Armenians in America, 1890 to World War I. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983. 

Morris, R. ed. Photographies East: The Camera and Its Histories in East and Southeast Asia. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009. 

Ong, A. Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality. United Kingdom, Duke University Press, 1999.  

Tagg, J. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988. 

Yılmaz, İ. Serseri, Anarşist ve Fesadın Peşinde: II. Abdülhamid Dönemi Güvenlik Politikaları Ekseninde Mürür Tezkereleri, Pasaportlar ve Otel Kayıtları, Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları, 2004. 

Yılmaz, İ. “Governing the Armenian Question through Passports in the Late Ottoman Empire (1876–1908).” J Hist Sociol. 2019; 32: 388– 403.   




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