Abstracts and Bios

Posted on | February 19, 2013 by Neery | No Comments

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Abstracts of Confirmed Participants

Amitav Ghosh
Celebrated Novelist, Conference Keynote Speaker

Bonds of Captivity: Indians and Armenians in the prison camps of Ras al-‘Ain, 1916-18.

In April 1916 a large British-Indian force, under the command of Major-General Charles Townshend surrendered to the Ottoman army at Kut al-Amara in ‘Iraq. Amongst those who went into captivity were some medical auxiliaries from Calcutta: they were young volunteers, of low rank, and they belonged to a hastily-formed unit called the Bengal Ambulance Corps. Along with a number of Hindu and Sikh prisoners-of-war they were made to march to Ras al-‘Ain, in northern Syria, where they were made to work on a rail line. In thisarea there were a number of prison camps, holding thousands of Armenians. They had been transported to this region from cities like Mardin, Diyar Bakir and Erzurum: a great number had been killed and many had died of disease. The Indian and Armenian camps were close to each other and at times the lives of the prisoners became intricately intertwined. Decades later one of the volunteers of the Bengal Ambulance Corps, Sisir Sarbadhikari, would write a memoir of his war years based upon a journal that he had kept during his time in the Middle East. Written in Bengali, the book was privately published, under the title of Abhi Le Baghdad (1958): it attracted little notice and soon vanished into obscurity. This is a recounting of Sisir Sarbadhikari’s narrative of his encounters with Armenians during his years in captivity.

1. Arevik Arevshatyan
A mixed media visual artist, free-lance curator, stage designer and an essayist based in Yerevan

A New Dictionary for Image-Forming Art: Soviet/Post Soviet Portraiture

I would like to address some of the notable changes that became visible in post-Soviet artistic practices,as a result of rapid developments, or the transformations, that followed the conformism which was typical during the so-called stagnation years in Soviet times. My observations will be based on rethinking the issues putforth through an exhibition that I curated in 2008 entitled “Portraiture between Modernity and Innovation” at the Center for Contemporary Experimental Art (NPAK) which dealt with works produced in Armenia after the Soviet rupture. Since in-retrospect the exhibited works can also be contextualized as strategies of silencing (or giving voice) my presentation will focus on the relation between changing artistic systems and the means of artistic production. More specifically, I will analyze the appearance of the non-official image – the individual – as a result of broader societal changes. I will end by questioning whether the theoretical frameworks that narrate artistic practices, in pre and post Soviet Armenia, have altered significantly.

2. Shushan Avagyan
Translator, she received her PhD from Illinois State University in 2012 and currently teaches at the American University of Armenia

Traumatic Infidelities: The Experience and its Translations in Mabel Elliott and Zabel Yesayan

While scholarship on the Armenian genocide has mainly focused on the reconstruction and definitions of the original event or on the formation of Armenian diasporic identities, my focus, by contrast, shifts to what André Lefevere has called the “refractions” of the event, found in the different kinds of translation (verbal, intralingual, interlingual) or in less obvious forms of commentary, historiography, or in any media that involve interpretation and influence perception. Using this framework, I compare American doctor Mabel Elliott’s chronicle Beginning Again At Ararat (1924) and her account from the Scutari Rescue Home with Ottoman-Armenian writer Zabel Yesayan’s Among the Ruins (1911). I analyze how Elliott’s discursive choices in Beginning Again domesticate—i.e., formulate in domestic terms and ideologies—the foreign experience of the Armenian genocide. By contrast, Yesayan, I argue, preserves a sense of the other’s alterity by foreignizing her own language. If Elliott uses a strategy of domesticating and appropriating the silences of traumatic memory, Yesayan defamiliarizes and thus makes audible what is inaudible in testimony by employing the genre of nonfiction, heretofore foreign to her oeuvre, and “improper” use of ellipses to faithfully translate the foreignness of traumatic experience. In focusing on the various kinds of infidelities that become sites of ethical contention between the two opposing principles of translatability and untranslatability, my paper seeks to revise our modes of reading and to devise a subversive method of approaching translations of the Armenian genocide that raises levels of awareness—both of others’ practices and our own.

3. Vardan Azatyan
Associate Professor in art history at Yerevan State Academy of Fine Art. His monograph Art History and Nationalism: Medieval Arts of Armenia and Georgia in 19th century Germany was published in 2012 in Armenian

Conflicting Visions of Liberation

I start with a discussion of an Armenian case of appropriation of 18th-century German Idealist philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder for a political cause. In 1909, seven months after the massacre of Armenians in Adana, an ideologue of Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, Stepanos Sapah-Gyulian addressed a speech in Istanbul. Through his interpretation of Herder as a political philosopher, Sapah-Gyulian made a case for the armed resistance of Armenians against Ottoman Empire. And even though this highly problematic interpretation of Herder was in sharp contrast with the earlier understanding of Herder that existed among the 19th-century Armenian intellectuals – Herder’s philosophy as harboring and legitimizing the idea of nation as culture – both cultural nationalism and political nationalism constitute the two interconnected and fundamental ways in which Armenian intellectuals historically have conceptualized the liberation of Armenians. In conclusion I point to now a rather forgotten Armenian intellectual tradition, a tradition of Armenian Marxism, which generated a critique of both of these contrasting attitudes thus pointing to the possible way of sublating both.

4. Hrach Bayadyan
Teaches Media and Cultural Studies at Yerevan State University, and writes on post-Soviet/postcolonial relationships

National Narratives and Forms of Narration

It is possible to consider that the history of modern Eastern Armenian literature, at the basis of which lies Khachatur Abovyan’s Verk Hayastani (The Wounds of Armenia), ends with Hrant Matevosyan’s work. If, on the one hand, we clearly sense the promises and impulses of Enlightenment in Abovyan’s story (the Armenian struggle against the Persian yoke, the establishment of the Russian rule as a possibility for saving Armenia, etc.), Matevosyan, on the other hand, brings to the foreground the mapping of loss and destruction brought on by modernity, whereas his writing, eluding national(istic) rhetoric, associates with a specific place (Lori). Matevosyan’s literature is the birth of the “modern moment” as the consciousness of the rupture’s incurability. His stance and reflective assessments are critical, whereas his writing brings to the fore forms of opposition and resistance.

In the preface of his book, Abovyan describes, on the one hand, those powerful impulses that push him to “take up language,” to speak, and on the other, the great difficulty of telling, of representing that is faced by the desire to materialize the message of modernity in local terms, to restore the wholeness of the atrophied community, and to compose the national narrative. Matevosyan, in his own turn, has talked about the difficulties of writing: “Genre, as well as plot present a problem for me”. I am interested in how each one of these writers weaves his speech, from what elements he constructs the place from where the story is told, and what means (permissible or forbidden) he can afford.

This question has recurred throughout the one and a half century of Eastern Armenian modernity in various spheres of cultural expression, for example, in painting at the beginning of twentieth century (Martiros Saryan, 1910-20s), in the attempts to recover a national epic (Sasna Tsrer [The Daredevils of Sasun], 1930s), in Eastern Armenia’s inheritance of the Western Armenian culture, the construction of a new identity, and the practice of speaking for all Armenians (1960s), etc. Each time the question is reformulated in new circumstances, in a new web of relations. In the case of Saryan, for instance, the question of the East (Orientalism) is fundamental, as is the relationship with Russian Constructivism for the 1920s in general.

At the same time, the national narrative (beyond transmitting unity and coherence to society) has turned into and remains today a dictating and limiting factor for cultural interpretation. In the most varied spheres of creative work, the interpretation of authors and individual works relies on (and is legitimized by) the national narrative. The critical analysis of this situation might facilitate in the formation of new interpretative abilities.

5. Viken Berberian
Holds graduate degrees from the London School of Economics (Msc) and Columbia University (Msc). Currently based in Yerevan he is the author of two novels: The Cyclist (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2002) and Das Kapital (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2007).

Nowhere: An excerpt from a novel in-progress

Nowhere is an allegory for a regime that has lost most of its population to migration. The narrative arc of the novel is shaped by the main character’s efforts to resist government control over the population. The remaining citizens of Nowhere are under constant surveillance by a despicable institution: the Ministry of Analytic Perceptible Flows and Reversible Outflow Movements (MAPFROM). The novel is set in the near future or the not so distant past.

6. Aikaterini Gegisian
Visual artist based in London. She is represented by the Kalfayan Gallery in Athens and currently a PhD candidate at the University of Westminster

The Harem from Orientalism to Popular Culture: Post-Ottoman Women’s Fashion

This audio-visual presentation is based on ‘The Harem’, a work-in-progress comprising of found images, postcards, videos and slide projections. Contrary to what the title might suggest, the project does not focus on the histories of the Ottoman Harem but the development of women’s fashion in the former Ottoman Empire, charting the transformation from the traditional dress (folk costumes) into the modern woman. Through an investigation of visual documents – a collection of archival postcards (from the turn of the 20th century) depicting women in their national dresses and popular films from the ‘60s (focussing on dance scenes) – the development of fashion follows the breakdown of the former Ottoman Empire into nation states. The project brings to the forefront the complexities of location and belonging, but most importantly unearths a series of parallels in visual culture that ultimately question the role of female emancipation and the legacies of modernity.
In particular, from the still proud woman to the dancing beauty, the presentation will explore the development of visual representation and

• the role of the studio photographer (in many cases in Cairo, Istanbul and Thessaloniki they were of Armenian origin)
• the function of the national dress (highlighting particular perceptions of national identity)
• the function of the colonial gaze (representing the woman as the ‘exotic’ other)
• the transformation into the modern woman with a common (or homogenised) dress code

This work has sprung out from my own intricate subjective position and is embedded in cultural, political and gender complexities.

7. David Kazanjian
Associate Professor of English and of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, as well as a Faculty Advisory Board member of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and a member of the Advisory Council of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, at the University of Pennsylvania

Time for Ruination: The Life of Armenian Aesthetics

Ruins are oddly liminal forms, collapsed somewhere between the structure’s imagined, original condition and its idealized, excessively pristine restoration. Nation-states and nationalist ideologies have long viewed ruins as sites to be seized: from Mexico’s frantic and fantasmatic restoration of Aztec, Maya, and Olmec pyramids in the name of indigenismo and the tourist industry; to Britain’s fabrication of Tutoriana and Victoriana in the name of imperial nostalgia; to Spain’s sleight-of-hand transformation of pre-national medieval castles and forts into expensive hotels, or paradores, honoring the nation. Ruins are also a nearly obsessive feature of Armenian culture, crowding the aesthetics of the high canon (from Gorky to Parajanov to Egoyan); the kitsch canon (the ubiquitous wall calendar images and website decorations); and, recently, the alternative or fringe. It is this latter aesthetic realm that I will discuss in this paper. Drawing on three recent cultural stagings of the ruin—Michael Blum and Damir Nikšić’s video “Oriental Dream” (2010); Karen Andreassian and the Citizen Walkers’ performance, video, and website “Ontological Walkscapes” (2010), and the project to restore a fountain in the formerly-Armenian town of Habab/Havav, Turkey-—I will propose that we understand ruination as neither a melancholic sign of lost greatness, nor an opportunity for well-funded reconstruction and restoration, nor a problem in need of improvement. Rather, I will suggest that we think of both the temporality and the spatiality of ruination as a kind of ongoing, open-ended, and catachrestical life. What might happen to our pasts and our futures, I ask, if we inhabit the time of the ruin, rather than desperately and melancholically pursue the end of that time? Ruins might just come to interrupt the narcissistic echo of the original in the rebuilt, strip the tain of the mirror that promises to reflect same to same, and live on without improving. To those who sound dissonant in that echo, ruins might just signal an opening, a crumbling of familiar forms from which we might glimpse an other life.

8. Nanor Kebranian
Assistant Professor of Armenian Studies in Columbia University’s Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies

Texts, Spies and Loyalty: The Politics of Ottoman-Armenian Print Culture

At the historical moment when Western Armenian became a standardized literary language, it confronted the most influential political agent in its development: systematic Ottoman censorship, coinciding with the era of Sultan Abdul Hamid II’s reign (1876 – 1908). While studies on Ottoman censorship are unfortunately scant and incomplete, enough research does exist to observe its impact on Western Armenian literature and Ottoman-Armenian socio-political relations. As author, poet and literary critic Krikor Beledian has observed, Hamidian censorship was foremost among the forces that determined the predominance of the realist short story among the Ottoman-Armenian, and especially the Istanbullu, literati. But its effects went far beyond the formation of generic predilections.

This paper consists of two sections. The first presents some of the chief social, political and cultural consequences of Ottoman censorship on Armenian publishing. And the second attempts to draw a preliminary conclusion about how censorship may have contributed to forging perceptions and conceptions of ethnic and/or national identity among Armenian intellectuals in the late Ottoman Empire. On the basis of archival, autobiographical, literary and literary critical sources, the discussion herein will reveal the rise of the censors as a formative socio-political class of immense clout. In the context of the Armenian periodical press, they were, almost entirely, ethnic Armenians. The source texts indicated above chronicle the perceptions, representations, and reputations associated with these historically shadowy figures. Moreover, they reveal that “Armenianness” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was determined as much, if not more, by ideological, religious and class allegiances as by ethnic affiliation. Hence, it was possible for writer Hagop Oshagan to conceive of a figure he termed “Armenian-Turk,” one, which also referred more broadly to informants. I will propose that thinking the Armenian-Turk through Ottoman censorship reveals a hitherto undisclosed view of late Ottoman ethno-national identification determined by power differentials rather than taxonomic assumptions.

9. Erden Kosova
An art critic based in Istanbul and contributes to the e-journal project red-thread.org as an editor

Disputed Criticality: Tensions within the Field of Contemporary Art in Istanbul

The period in which the contemporary art scene in Turkey established itself as a separate artistic field in the early nineties coincided with the crucial convergence of historical forces that conditioned the crisis of the then existing status quo of the Republic, namely: the end of the Cold War paradigm and consequently the isolationism of the official politics; the urge for integrating into the accelerating dynamics of globalism; escalation of the conflict evolving around the Kurdish problem towards a nearly civil-war state, and the gradual rise of the Islamic tendencies in politics. Within the very context in which the classic political dichotomy between the left and the right still made some sense, the newly emerging platform for contemporary art appealed decisively to an anti-nationalist, anti-statist and anti-militarist lexicon –a position which was exemplified with solidarity campaign with the Turkish Armenian artist Sarkis, one of the prominent mentors of the scene, who was harassed by the implicitly racist remarks of a local art critic in 1992.

The cosmopolitanism of the scene, which was shared by and perhaps inspired from the non-orthodox strands of the leftist intelligentsia, remained unchallenged up until two tragic ruptures: the ultra-nationalist vandalism targeting the opening of a photography exhibition (2005), which documented the pogrom against the non-muslim minorities of Istanbul fifty years ago
- an event which disrupted the illusion that the cultural field was spared from the escalation of tension in the daily politics – and the assassination of Hrant Dink, the ‘eye pupil’ of the cosmopolitan leftism in 2007. The response to the atrocities of the intensifying nationalism (which also lured and incorporated masses of people who previously identified themselves with the left wing of the political range, either social democrat or socialist) from a number of contemporary artists was to lean towards political and/or visual activism.

Yet, the aforementioned and bitter split with the leftfield, between cosmopolitanism and nationalism, started to have repercussions within artistic circles (accusation of being limited to identity politics; raised suspicions about links with European art institutions and funds, etc.); and the rapid commercialization and glamorization of the contemporary art scene in the last couple of years in Istanbul has harmed the credibility of the political engagement of the scene, leaving the artists in a state of paralysis that impedes the elaboration of a critical consistency.

My contribution would expand on this general outline along with the screening of some visual examples.

10. Kathleen MacQueen
Writer and critic based in New York. She holds a doctoral degree from Stony Brook University in art history and criticism with a certificate in cultural studies

Silent speech and the politics of intimacy

Speech matters – what we say, how we say it, and when we choose to speak or remain silent influence our relations with others. When we speak out-of-line we break invisible boundaries intentionally or inadvertently. Speech calms as well as incites. Withholding speech can constitute a rebuke; it creates distance; it also gives time for reflection. In certain societies, speech can put the speaker at risk of reprisal, even death.
Fearless speech, according to Foucault, is conducted by citizens. Who sings the nation state? asks Judith Butler and Gayatri Spivak. In conflicts around the world, the relation of speech to legitimacy is critical.

Speech also permeates our personal and intimate lives. We hold an ambiguous relation to it, feeling inadequate to the task of thoughtful communication yet we chat endlessly without much ado via texting, email, or voicemail. Speech comes with great responsibility but little awareness of the privileging and regulation of speakers. Political power regulates speech. Moral and psychological pressures curtail speech. In psychoanalysis, speech is a primary tool of healing yet the speech of trauma victims is imperiled by lack of trust and inhibited by insecurity. Speech legitimates while language expresses. As Ludwig Wittgenstein writes: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

This paper presents recent work by artists from Latin America, Spain, Iceland, Estonia, Armenia, Lebanon, and the US to consider the limitations of language and the transgression of speech into silence. For Francis Alÿs: “Poetic license operates like a hiatus – an agent provocateur, a short circuit – into the apathy of a situation that finds itself in the state of political, social, confessional, ethnic, economic or military crisis or lethargy” (Beirut 2008). In a similar strategy of rupture, the duo of Libia Castro & Olafur Olafsson exposes the language of the nation-state in scripting juridical interference into our most discrete intimacies. Their work is collective without being populist, employing a Brechtian sensibility of alienation to blur divisions between artistic and social practice.

The collective of Andrea Geyer, Sharon Hayes, David Thorne et al also highlights judicial language in a word-for-word performance of the Kafka-esque transcript pages of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals conducted by the US Department of Defense between July 2004 and March 2005 in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to reveal a mesmerizing study in erasure as witness, evidence, and identity are withheld from the record. In this sense, Wittgenstein’s “limits” are shrouds of secrecy and indecency. Nayda Collazo-Llorens intervenes into public space as an interface between the everyday violence of her native Puerto Rico and the excess of Internet ‘noise’ that acts, in her work Revolú*tion, as “writing on the wall” – in the sense of impending doom and ironic imagination. Lina Siib, Astghik Melkonyan, and Rabih Mroué as neo-documentarians using strategies of unveiling, mark the collapse of social and political promises and the resulting impact on individual lives.

Finally, Fred Wilson in a recent failure to create a public monument in recognition of the African Diaspora, past and present, and the legacy of collective trauma within public memory reveals a discrepancy between who gives speech to public space and what can be said in an atmosphere of a rising neo-liberalism and its definition of progress. The prevalence of the use of “found” text in these artists’ work suggests a rupture if not a complete breakdown in our manner of communication. Looking at the contradictory meanings of the word stasis (for both inaction and revolution), the metaphor of walking as the locutionary seat of language (here/there, I/you), and the mutable boundaries between political and intimate speech, this paper takes as its point of departure Derrida’s The Politics of Friendship to frame a reflection on a politics of intimacy.

11. Paul Benjamin Osterlund
Obtained his BA from The Evergreen State College where he studied Political Science, and is a second year MA student in Turkish Studies at Sabanci University

Locating a Revanchist Continuum in Post-Ottoman Istanbul

The roots of the term “revanchism” can be traced back to 19th century Paris. The revanchists were a bourgeois faction opposed to the sentiments of the Paris Commune and the socialist/working class behind it, who took control of the city following Napoleon III’s demise. The revanchists implemented moralist rhetoric and violent tactics against those they felt had seized and corrupted their vision of Parisian society (Slater, 2009). Neil Smith employs the term to describe the hostilities waged against the homeless population of New York City in the late 80’s/early 90’s. This paper seeks to apply Smith’s notion of the revanchist city to Istanbul. A revanchist campaign was waged against Istanbul’s “official” minority population (Greeks, Armenians and Jews) through various policies and events that were successful in forcing out the vast majority of those groups: prominent fixtures in Ottoman Istanbul. Today, one can witness a second wave of revanchism wherein the city’s “unofficial” minorities (Roma, Kurds, African migrants, transsexuals, etc.) are being systematically expelled from inner-city quarters in a violent and destructive manner. The paper explores the continuum between the first and second waves, in particular how the disinvestment of quarters such as Tarlabasi and Sulukule throughout the 20th century created the conditions of marginalization that characterized those areas up to the present, and how state actors used those conditions as justification to complete the total dissection from Istanbul’s cosmopolitan past.

12. Zeynep Sariaslan
Research fellow in the Department of Social and Cultural anthropology, University of Zurich

Anthropological Curiosities at the Frontier: Kars, Pamuk and Others

Ethnicity and nationalism are not easily separated from each other because both are constructed on the basis of shared culture through symbols and therefore create a sense of belonging (Eriksen, 2002). However, the difference of nationalism is that it is a construction, which aims to link a self-defined cultural group to a state through which abstract communities, different from kinship based communities, are created (Gellner, 1994; Anderson, 1995). The experience of globalization created neo-nationalism, which also found its response in Turkey (Gingrich, 2006; Bora, 2003), while local experiences of nationalism became more interesting especially at the borderlands. In this presentation, I will share findings of an ethnographic research done in 2009 in Kars, located North East Turkey, to examine the perceptions of the novel Snow written by Orhan Pamuk. I will discuss how Karsians perceive the Armenian question as the residents of a city which borders one of the historically constructed ‘others’ of the nation. Concerning the present political and economic interests at the global scale, I will show how the challenge of the nation state is experienced at the local level.

Keywords: identification, boundaries, ethnicity, nationalism, Kars, novel Snow, Orhan Pamuk

13. Talin Suciyan
A PhD Candidate and Teaching Fellow at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich Institute of Near and Middle Eastern Studies

Armenian Representation in Turkey during the Post WWII period

Definition of minority alone falls short of explaining the position of Armenians remaining in Republican Turkey. For they constitute a society of survivors, living in a post-genocidal society within post-genocidal state structures.

The loss of acquired rights of remaining ethnic groups was a constitutive part of the post-genocidal character of republican period. One of the most important issues was -and continues to be until today- the problem of representation. The legal impossibility of political representation as a community and the constant requirement of representation of the Armenian community in the Turkish public sphere was a key dilemma. The Armenian community of Turkey has lost its mechanisms of representation, which had been institutionalised in Armenian constitution (nizamname) of 1863 during the first 15 years of the republic. Ever since then, secular and/or political issues of the community could not be addressed by any institution, which was formed by elected representatives. The absence of institutional representation created two-fold problems. Firstly, each and every Armenian could potentially or actually be referred to as a representative of the community. Secondly, Armenian newspapers and intellectuals were put in the position of representing the community.

In situation of international crisis, such as during the post WWII period, when Armenians were accused of being a “fifth column” or pro-German, or pro-Soviet, both Armenian individuals and the Armenian newspapers along with public intellectuals were forced to react on behalf of the community. This enforcement mechanism was launched by the parliamentarian cumeditors-in-chiefs of Turkish newspapers, which were covering the biggest part of the Turkish press and who were representatives of the government at the same time.

Obliging community intellectuals to make political declarations was consequently paving the way of banning the newspapers or imprisonment of their editors. Impossibility of political representation and the requirement of representation in an anti-Armenian public sphere meant a special kind of silencing through a special kind of permission to speak.

In my paper, I will dwell upon this issue during the post WWII period in the context of USSR claims of territorial rights to eastern provinces from Turkey and the call for immigration the USSR issued to Armenians all over the world. I will use the Armenian newspapers (Marmara, Nor Lour and Nor Or) to understand the social and official pressures on the community and the responses given by the community intellectuals. Along with Armenian newspapers, documentation from the Prime Minister’s Archives will be utilized as complementary sources.

14. Zülal Nazan Üstündağ
Assistant Professor Department of Sociology at Boğaziçi University

Please note that Zülal Nazan Üstündağ could not join us at the last instance due to her solidarity with Kurdish prisoners who were on hunger strike in Turkey. Below we share her note with you. Her paper is read by writer filmmaker Emily Mkrtichian.

Dear Conference Organizers Dear Participants,
I am writing this letter to inform you that I will not be able to come to Yerivan this time, although I was looking forward to meeting you there and participating in this wonderful conference. I am unable to come because I am unable to leave the seven hundred Kurdish prisoners who are in hunger strike in Turkey, without rotation and interruption, which has as such practically become a fast for death. Today is the 44th day. The point of no return is approaching. Some of them might die. Some of them will never recover. I am unable to come because they are starving themselves for me, for peace, for these lands and its people.For thirty years now, we have been in war. Every time we say there is hope, more deaths follow. In these thirty years we have witnessed, forced exile, forced disappearance, forced displacement, execution, torture and environmental destruction. It cannot go on. The Turkish people are a people constituted by denying genocide. Now, they are denying the language, the existence and the suffering of another ethnicity. They constitute themselves by ethnocide. I am unable to come because I belong to the Turkish people. I cannot bear to deny, to go on with life as it is, to do what I have planned, to submit myself to regular things, while Kurdish people are waiting for the death of their children. The demands of the prisoners are simple. First: the right to defend themselves in their mother tongue, in Kurdish. Second, they want that Abdullah Öcalan be allowed visits by his lawyers. Abdullah Öcalan is the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and also the recognized leader of many Kurds living in Turkey. Peace can come only through negotiation, face –to- face interaction, conversation. By recognizing the existence of another. The war can stop only when the Turkish state and PKK sits on a table. There is no other way. An Empire is the one, which thinks that things don’t exist when, they are not named into existence by the Emperor. In that sense I guess we those who starve in prisons and those who try to represent them, are truly the remains of the Ottoman Empire. In the state and violence class, which I teach every year, when the topic is the hunger strikes and the reading is Allen Feldman, I say to my students that hunger strike is transforming your body into a sign of cruelty against those who torture you. It is an oath followed through. It is a testimony when language has been confiscated from you. I cannot come to Yerivan. I cannot leave because I need to witness this testimony. If it is heard, to rejoin. If not, then, to mourn. Have a beautiful conference. Hope to see you in another occasion and forgive me for leaving my spot empty. Nazan

A Travel Guide to the East of the Empire

Various populations have inhabited the eastern lands of contemporary Turkey. They have imprinted themselves on the materiality and the dreamscapes of the geography only to be uprooted by violence and atrocity. As a result, eastern Turkey is composed of a landscape dominated by evacuated villages, deserted pastures and burnt down forests. Barren mountains hosting insurgents on foot are bombed everyday by F-16s. They conjure up memories. “Armenians were the breakfast, we are the dinner” people say evoking an image of obscene obesity when referring to the state. Peace has not arrived to these lands since the beginning of the century.

This paper aims at articulating violence and narrating war through the genre of the travel guide. It adopts three different voices: The guide, the tourist and the theorist. The dialogue between these three voices enables the articulation of trauma as an affect of violence mediated by the materiality of land, bodies and words. The genre of the travel guide is not an arbitrary choice. Nor are these three voices. These enforce themselves on the person who wants to talk about the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. People in eastern Turkey just like in the west are fond of speaking through the idiom of travel and tour when they relate to strangers. They want to show places, and sites, people and buildings. The idiom of travel insures a common ground for communication between those who are insiders and those who are outsiders, torn apart from one another by real war as much as by the symbolic wars of history.

I would also claim that living in the nation-states inhabiting the former territories of the Empire often only be expressed by means of a travel genre. This is not because post-Ottoman Empire is characterized by numerous population exchanges and exiles. Violence in east, south and west alike also makes even a short trip a high ordeal through id checks and cross police barriers, endowing any movement with a sense of insecurity, adventure and unpredictability.

15. Ashot Voskanyan
PhD in philosophy with training from the State Universities of Moscow (1980) and Leipzig (1986).

Yeghishe Charents—Hagop Oshagan: On a Case of Ontological Incompatibility

In his most pessimistic work, Patmutyan karughinerov (At the Crossroads of History), Yeghishe Charents describes Armenian history as being dependent and unhistorical (without a past), and talks about the paralysis and atomization of the Armenian people’s collective genius.

The same question haunted Hagop Oshagan who, in 1914, nineteen years prior to the publication of Patmutyan karughinerov, describes the Armenians in the literary journal Mehyan as a confused and torn-up mass without a name or a body that has been banished from the center.

Both have searched for ways to resolve the fragmented existence of the nation, yet they have been unable to not only dialog with one another, but even to establish contact. Charents, it seems, was not familiar with Oshagan’s inquiries, while Oshagan, who despite his lengthy analysis of Charents’s poetry in 1924, concluded in the 1940s that Charents’s artificial fame had added nothing to the Eastern Armenian letters.

The paper attempts to show that the mutual estrangement of these genius authors was due to ontological factors. Charents perceived the world through social, while Oshagan through national categories. However, this radical difference can’t be explained solely by individual preference or the choice of cognitive strategy. Of importance is the fact that in the reality of Western Armenia, framed within the borders of the Ottoman Empire, the only form of social manifestation was indeed the national one. Oshagan’s later works reflect this underlying reality in multiperspectival ways a prime example of which is Mnatsordats (The Remnants).

The replacement of essentially social relations with national structures of coexistence brought forth the deep cross-seepage of Armenian and Turkish elements, which nevertheless lacked a flexible potential for cooperation and evolved in acquiring mutated forms. Oshagan’s greatest achievement has been to expose and describe this phenomenon. But it was impossible to untangle the knot of Armenian-Turkish interdependence within the framework of the writer’s adopted substantialist paradigm, where any contradiction that appears in society is explained through an essential Turkishness of the Turk and Armenianness of the Armenian. Perhaps the reason why the writer who had survived the Genocide couldn’t finish his novel Mnatsordats was due to the realization of this unbearable reality.

Charents, of course, did not have such a deep understanding of the Western Armenian reality. And yet, not having the Western Armenian complex of having lost a world, he tried to view the nation’s traditional form of existence from the outside. His proposed solutions are condensed in the synthetic structure of The Book of the Road.

Presenters’ Biographies

Arevik Arevshatyan is a graduate of the painting department of Yerevan Fine Arts and Theatre Institute, artist and independented curator Arevik Arevshatyan is known for her astute portrayal of the condition of women in post-Soviet Armenia. She was a contributing member of the late 1980s – early 1990s “Third-Floor” movement which marked a departure from the official artistic discourses and practices. She has participated in numerous local and international exhibitions and projects. She works in several media, focusing on paintings, objects, photographs and spatial installation, as well as stage design. She has authored number of essays on art. and curated several exhibitions. Her works are exhibited at the Modern Art Museum of Armenia and in private collections. She lives and works in Yerevan.

Shushan Avagyan is the translator from Russian of Energy of Delusion: A Book on Plot and Bowstring: On the Dissimilarity of the Similar by Viktor Shklovsky (Dalkey Archive), and from Armenian I Want to Live: Poems of Shushanik Kurghinian (AIWA). She received her PhD from Illinois State University in 2012 and currently teaches at the American University of Armenia.

Vardan Azatyan is an Associate Professor in art history at Yerevan State Academy of Fine Art. As a Visiting Professor he has lectured at Columbia University in the City of New York and Dutch Art Institute, Enschede, NL. His recent publications include articles in ARTMargins, Oxford Art Journal, Human Affairs, Springerin, The Internationaler.He is a co-editor, with Malcolm Miles, of the volume Cultural Memory (University of Plymouth Press, 2010). His monograph Art History and Nationalism: Medieval Arts of Armenia and Georgia in 19th century Germany was published in 2012 in Armenian language. He is the translator of major works by George Berkeley and David Hume into Armenian.

Hrach Bayadyan (b. 1957) is a cultural critic living and working in Yerevan, Armenia. He is a lecturer at the Yerevan State University, leading the “Communication, Media and Society” Master’s programme at the Department of Journalism. Along with other courses, he teaches “Media and Cultural Studies”. His recent articles are related to such issues as political, social, and cultural implications of information and communication technologies, post-Soviet media culture and transformations of urban spaces, as well as Russian-Soviet orientalism and cultural identity. His recent publications include: articles “Boredom” and “Hierarchy” for the book “Atlas of Transformation”, JRP-Ringier, 2010 (Project “Monument to Transformation 1989-2009”, Tranzit, Prague); Becoming Post-Soviet, Series: Documenta 13: 100 notes – 100 thoughts, No. 059, Hatje Cantz, 2012.

Viken Berberian has lived in Yerevan for more than a year where he is working on his novel-in-progress. He holds graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and Columbia University. He is the author of two novels, The Cyclist (Simon & Schuster, 2002) and Das Kapital (Simon & Schuster 2007).

Aikaterini Gegisian is a visual artist that lives and works in London. Her work has been presented in solo and group shows internationally; Spike Island Gallery, Bristol, 1st Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, Greece; Galerie Parissud, Paris; Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, Germany. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Westminster. She is represented by Kalfayan Galleries (Athens-Thessaloniki).

David Kazanjian is Associate Professor of English and of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, as well as a Faculty Advisory Board member of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and a member of the Advisory Council of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Colonizing Trick: National Culture and Imperial Citizenship in Early America (Minnesota), and has co-edited (with David L. Eng) Loss: The Politics of Mourning (California), as well as (with Shay Brawn, Bonnie Dow, Lisa Maria Hogeland, Mary Klages, Deb Meem, and Rhonda Pettit) The Aunt Lute Anthology of U.S. Women Writers, Volume One: Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries (Aunt Lute Books). He has also published widely on the cultural politics of the North American-Armenian diaspora, and has worked with the Blind Dates Project (www.blinddatesproject.org), an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration among contemporary artists and intellectuals with ties to the legacies of the Ottoman Empire, curated by Defne Ayas and Neery Melkonian. He is currently completing a monograph entitled The Brink of Freedom: Improvising Life in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World, a study of three nineteenth-century social movements that improvised with the discourse and practice of freedom. In 2013-14, in collaboration with Daniel Richter and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at Penn, he will direct a Mellon-Sawyer Seminar entitled “Race, across Time and Space.”

Dr. Nanor Kebranian is Assistant Professor of Armenian Studies in Columbia University’s Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies. She specializes in Armenian literature and culture from the 19th century to the present, focusing primarily on the intersection of politics and literature. She completed her doctoral research at Oxford University with the generous support of both the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Fellowship and the Oxford University Clarendon Fellowship. And she is currently completing her book manuscript tentatively entitled, Man of Prison: Denial and the Novel of Empire. Based on a combination of archival research and literary criticism, with a primary focus on the novels of Ottoman-Armenian author, Hagop Oshagan (1883 – 1948), this study explores the latent effects of denial as ideology in the historical fashioning of post-Ottoman ethno-national identity.

Erden Kosova is an art critic based in Istanbul. He contributes to the e-journal project ‘red-thread.org’ as an editor. Kosova is co-writer of the book ‘Abseits aber Tor’ (with Vasıf Kortun, Walther Koenig, 2004), a conversation about the main dynamics of the contemporary art scene in Turkey. He also wrote monographic books on two artists: Aydan Mürtezaoğlu and Esra Ersen (Yapı Kredi, 2011 and 2012). Kosova is member of the Istanbul-based project ‘ortak müfredat’, which investigates possibilities for alternative modes of education within the field of contemporary art. He is also a contributor to the conception and production of the next edition of the Blind Dates Project exhibition which will open in Yerevan and Istanbul in 2013.

Kathleen MacQueen is a writer and critic based in New York. She holds a doctoral degree from Stony Brook University in art history and criticism with a certificate in cultural studies; her dissertation Tactical Response: Art in an Age of Terror (UMI, 2010) looks at how the works of Hans Haacke, Krzysztof Wodiczko, and Alfredo Jaarcritically address the complexities of creative practice as a form of social intervention infused with both aesthetic philosophy and ethical commitment. Her current research, A Politics of Intimacy, investigates the degree to which contemporary art responds to the impact of rapid and vapid information exchange on human relations and the mutable boundaries between political and intimate speech. Dr. MacQueen writes “Shifting Connections” an online discussion of ideas and issues relevant to contemporary art for BOMB Magazine and has published essays, interviews, and reviews in The Art Book, Seachange Journal, Art Criticism, and the Journal of Multicultural and Cross-cultural Research.Her conversation with the South African photographer Jo Ractliffe is included in Über(W)unden: Art in Troubled Times (Goethe Institute and Jacana, 2012).

Paul Osterlund obtained his BA from The Evergreen State College where he studied Political Science. He spent his final year of undergraduate studies at Bogazici University in Istanbul. He is about to begin his second year of study in the Turkish Studies MA program at Sabanci University. His research interests include urban geography and gentrification in Istanbul.

K. Zeynep Sarıaslan holds BS in Sociology (2002) and MSc in Social Anthropology (2010) from the Middle East Technical University. Her thesis is on local identifications and boundaries in Kars, located at the Armenian border in Turkey. She is interested in feminist anthropology, border studies, development and visual anthropology. She has been one of the SNSF research fellows in Department of Social and Cultural anthropology, University of Zurich, in the project entitled “Development and Trust in Upper Mesopotamia: Social Impacts of GAP (Güneydoğu Anadolu Projesi)” since March 2012.

Talin Suciyan is a teaching fellow and PhD candidate at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Institute of Near and Middle Eastern Studies. She teaches Western Armenian, late Ottoman and Turkish history, and has worked as journalist for various newspapers and magazines for over 10 years. Her published works include an introduction to Kemani Sarkis Efendi Suciyan: Hayatıve Eserleri (2012), and a translation of Vahe Berberian’s novel Anoun Hor Yev Vortvo (2008) into Turkish, both published by Aras Press in Istanbul. Together with Lara Aharonian she has directed a documentary on ZabelYesayan’s life and work entitled “Finding Zabel Yesayan” (2009).

Nazan Üstündağ is an Assistant Professor at Boğaziçi University. She received her Ph.D. in 2005 at Indiana University-Bloomington Sociology Department. Her thesis is entitled “Belonging to the Modern: Women’s Suffering and Subjectivities in Turkey.” Her interests include narrative methods, critical theory, state and violence. She is currently studying the manifestation of state violence in bodies, land, documents and language in Northern Kurdistan.

Ashot Voskanian is a PhD in philosophy with training from the State Universities of Moscow (1980) and Leipzig (1986). He has since been a frequent visiting lecturer at Yerevan State University; Yerevan State Linguistic University, and has offered a seminar at the Free University Berlin on Seriousness and Relaxation of Postmodernity. His research areas include: Methodology of Social Sciences; Hermeneutics; Theories of Rationalization and Modernization, and Problems of National Identity, with over 40 publications in Armenian, Russian, German, English and French. Dr. Voskanian’s non-academic activities include: Member of Armenian Parliament (1990-1995, 1995- 1997). Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic (1995-1997, Vienna); Ambassador to Germany (1997-2001, Bonn, Berlin), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia as: Head of Analytical Department and Advisor on European Integration of Armenia (2001 -2007); Head of the Prague office of the Armenian Embassy in Vienna (2007 -2010), and Head of Asia- Pacific and Africa Department (since 2010).

As a fiscally sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts, SoUS is made possible by a grant from Open Society Foundations-Armenia, and complimented with contributions by individual patrons including: Christopher Atamian; Ken Darian; Law Office of Souren Israelian; Varouj Koundakjian, and Joyce Ellen Reilly

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