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Surviving genocide: MIT scholar on Armenians in Turkey

November 5, 2015

“I’ve spent the last decade thinking about the concept of survival,” said MIT Professor of History and Women & Gender Studies Lerna Ekmekçioğlu in her lecture on “Survivors into Minorities: Armenians in a Post-Genocide Turkey” to a packed room of students, faculty and members of Seattle’s Armenian community on Nov. 3 in an event organized by the Jackson School of International Studies.

Ekmekçioğlu spoke about her original research on the survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide, who were mainly women and children located in Istanbul, as a “first framework” for understanding the impact of survival from a social, psychological, historical perspective, both at the individual and collective levels.

She shared examples from her original research of Armenian press, journals, archives and intellectual discourse published and unpublished on the survival strategy of Armenians who escaped the genocide–and their road to unity. These included how Armenians “talked about survival through a familial language,” the life of Armenian orphans, and the role of gender and feminism on the post-genocide recovery process.

In closing, she highlighted the impact of the Westernization and founding of modern-day Turkey on the Armenian community of genocide survivors.

Questions from the audience ranged from the existence of Armenian language publications in Turkey and the rise of Armenian feminism, to the current push by many Armenians for Turkey’s full recognition of the genocide and reparation.

Ekmekçioğlu’s book Recovering Armenia: The Limits of Belonging in Post-Genocide Turkey, the first in-depth study of the aftermath of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and the Armenians who remained in Turkey, will be published in January 2016.