BERKELEY, Calif.,—The Armenian Studies department of the University of California, Berkeley will be hosting an international conference about the Armenian Genocide on Saturday, April 20. The conference will take place on campus, at Dwinelle Hall from 9:45 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., and will include a lunch break.
The unusually broad focus of this conference aims at assessing various historiographical aspects of the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath. Since the extermination of the Armenians was a central event leading to the creation of modern Turkey, this conference will also deal with the ideological, political, and cultural continuities and discontinuities from the period of the Committee of Union and Progress to the present, insofar as they shed light on the Armenian Genocide and its denial by the Turkish State.
Instead of in-depth original research into narrow historical topics, the participants were asked to present academic “think pieces” reflecting on crucial issues.
The forum will be divided into three sessions, one in the morning and two in the afternoon, where speakers will reflect on their research.
The panel will be introduced by Dr. Stephan H. Astourian, director of the Armenian Studies program and Associate Adjunct Professor of the History department at U.C. Berkeley.
Below is the schedule, the list of speakers and the abstracts of each presentation:
Chair: Dr. Christine Philliou, Associate Professor (Department of History, U.C. Berkeley), will introduce Dr. Ronald Grigor Suny (William H. Sewell Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History, the University of Michigan; Professor Emeritus of Political Science and History, the University of Chicago).
Dr. Ronald Grigor Suny will present his research, titled “Since the Centennial: New Departures in the Scholarship on the Armenian Genocide, 2015 – 2019.”
Abstract: The centennial of the Armenian Genocide in 2015 was marked by a flood of new research and writing on the events of 1915. The consensus in the academia, and increasingly in the informed public, was that a genocide occurred in the late Ottoman Empire. It appeared for a time that the denialist campaigns had failed, that the Turkish Republic might finally acknowledge the horrors of the Ottoman past, and yet in the next few years as Turkey turned ever more authoritarian scholars were faced by an odd paradox. Official discourse remained stagnant in the old understandings, while besieged scholarship continued to develop a better understanding of the origins and processes of the Genocide.
Dr. Raymond H. Kévorkian (Director of research emeritus, Institut Français de Géopolitique, Université Paris VIII, Saint-Denis) will follow, presenting his research titled “Methodical Depopulation and Systematic Destruction: Continuity and Radical Break between the Hamidian Regime and the Unionists.”
Abstract: This brief reflection aims at redefining the conceptual bases of an issue that constantly comes back on the scene and generates lively debates without reaching a definitive conclusion: Is there continuity or not between the mass violence of the Hamidian period and the systematic destruction of 1915? If, yes, what kind?
Dr. Mehmet Polatel (Manoogian Post-doctoral Fellow, Armenian Studies Program of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), the final speaker of the morning session, will speak on “The Short- and Long-Term Consequences of the Hamidian Massacres.”
Abstract: This presentation examines the short- and long-term consequences of the Hamidian Massacres with a particular focus on the ways in which this wave of mass violence, and the processes of property transfer that accompanied it, escalated tensions among different communities and produced changes that hindered the normalization of relations among them. It argues that these massacres led to the emergence of a large group of people who had a vested interest in the non-implementation of reforms and shows that this interest group played an important role in the realization of genocidal violence at the local level in 1915.
Afternoon Session 1:
Dr. Margaret Lavinia Anderson, Professor Emerita (Department of History, U.C. Berkeley) will be celebrating the launch of the book she will present, “The End of the Ottomans: The Genocide of 1915 and the Politics of Turkish Nationalism.”
Dr. Taner Akçam (Kalusdian/Mugar Chair, History Department, Clark University) will be presenting his research on the question: “Was There a Defining Decision (or Decisions) to Commit the Armenian Genocide? If Yes, What Was its (or Their) Timing?”
Abstract: Bahaattin Şakir, the head of Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, in a letter on March 3, 1915 wrote that the Central Committee of the Committee of Union and Progress had decided to exterminate the Armenians. And gave the government wide authority to implement this plan. His letter has never been considered as authentic and was ignored by researchers in our field. Most scholars put the possible date(s) for a final decision at the end of March (or beginning of April). In my talk, I will show that the letter is authentical and we have to revisit the topic of the final decision. If we take Şakir’s date as a possible date for the final decision, where and how was this decision taken and is there any corroborative evidence to confirm the date of his letter. Based on some newly available Ottoman documents, Akçam will revisit the question of the final decision and ask some new research questions.
Dr. Hans-Lukas Kieser (Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia), the final speaker for the second session, will present his research on “Opium for the Oblivion of Genocide: The Kemalist Elite’s History Thesis.”
Abstract: The Turkish History Thesis of the 1930s served a non-Islamic identity construction in the post-Ottoman Republic of Turkey by integrating Turks into a racially constructed white Aryan West. It made Turkdom the cradle of human civilization and “proto-Turks” the pre-historic natives of Asia Minor. Young Turk and Kemalist narratives of national salvation, starting in the early 1910s, culminated in a thesis that emphasized glorious Turkish history cleansed from foreign influence. The contemporary exclusive control of Anatolia by radically nationalistic Turks was given ethno-historical credentials and the disappearance of the others (Armenians, Greeks, etc.) was portrayed as a natural and logical historical process. This paper underlines the History Thesis’ contemporary centrality and topicality, in contrast to a dispensable curiosity. The exalted and exuberant nature of the arguments served Kemalist élites as opium to obliviate the perpetration of genocide during their Turkey’s foundation.
Afternoon Session 2:
Chair: Dr. Stephan H. Astourian, (Director of the Armenian Studies Program and Associate Adjunct Professor, Department of History, U.C. Berkeley), will introduce the final panel of speakers.
Dr. Etienne Copeaux (Independent researcher), will pose the question: “Is Turkey Condemned to Nationalism after the Genocide?” He will present his research regarding the matter.
Abstract: By formulating the hypothesis of the existence in Turkey of a general feeling of guilt consecutive to the genocide, I would like to reconsider nationalism and history-writing in Turkey, in their excessive characteristics, as effects of the genocide. In fact, the sense of guilt added to the impossibility to mourn has necessitated what Mitscherlich called the “emergency exits,” that is, the prejudices and stereotypes able to ensure “that nothing prevents the process of repression or denial.” After a glance over some features of Turkish nationalism and over the State’s takeover of history, I will evoke some aspects of the vision of Turkish history under the rule of R.T. Erdogan.
Dr. Hamit Bozarslan (Professor, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris), the final speaker of day, will discuss his research on, “Kairos against Chronos: The Role of Chiliasm in the Making of Unionism and Erdoganism”
Abstract: As is well-known, the German sociologist Karl Mannheim has defined chiliasm as the Kairos’s will to take revenge against Chronos. In spite of their multiple differences and the sharp contrasts that we observe between the 1910s and the 2010s, the Unionist and Erdoganist cartels of power share the same vision: the Turkish nation has a historical mission interrupted by internal and external enemies and traitors. They interpret history as a permanent Social-Darwinist war between “species” and they understand the future as the time of the ultimate revenge against the past. Their ambition is to undo what Chronos has instituted in time.