WORCESTER, Mass. (Combined Sources)–Turkish scholar Taner Akcam has been appointed Chair at Clark University’s Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, the Armeni%u030n Mirror Spectator reported.
Akcam will be moving from the University of Minnesota to Worcester, Mass., in June to take up his new position in September.
“Ever since 1976, when I was a teaching assistant at the Middle East Technical University in Turkey, it was my dream to become a scholar, to go to Europe or the US and get my PhD, Akcam said, noting how his unlawful arrest in Turkey changed his life.
“I committed myself [to this goal]. I have worked very hard to be where I am, and I am very happy about the appointment and that I have realized my dream,” he said.
Because Akcam is Turkish and will teach, among other subjects, a course on the Armenian Genocide, his appointment in some circles is bound to be considered controversial, but Akcam sees it as the result of a normal process that has opened the field to non-Armenian scholars.
Akcam has lived outside of Turkey since 1978, first as a political refugee. He later came to the United States and has taught in the Department of History at the University of Minnesota since 2002.
He last visited Turkey in 2007 for the funeral of his close friend, Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist and editor of Agos, who was assassinated in Istanbul in front of his newspaper office.
Akcam has filed a lawsuit in the European Court to completely rescind Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code, which imposes harsh penalties on those whose views are seen as “insulting Turkishness,” for example, mentioning the Armenian Genocide.
Although Turkey has recently passed amendmen’s to soften the penalties, Akcam will not withdraw his suit. “Nothing has been decided yet,” he said. “Of course, the European Court might use the Turkish amendmen’s as a reason to drop the case.”