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CREES Noon Lecture. “Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present, and Collective Violence against the Armenians, 1789-2009.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

While much of the international community regards the forced deportation of Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire in 1915, where approximately 800,000 to 1.5 million Armenians perished, as genocide, the Turkish state continues to officially deny it, insisting instead that what occurred took place during war and that the losses on their side were just as great. In this talk based on my recently published book, I delve into the roots of this denial and explain why it still persists. I specifically focus on the denial of collective violence committed against Armenians throughout Ottoman and Turkish history, demonstrating its occurrence many times before 1915. To capture the negotiation of meaning that leads to denial, I qualitatively analyze 315 memoirs published in Turkey from 1789 to 2009 in addition to numerous secondary sources, journals, and newspapers. My analysis reveals that denial is a multi-layered, historical process with four distinct yet overlapping components: the structural elements of collective violence and modernity on one side, and the emotional elements of collective consensus and legitimating events on the other. In the Turkish case, denial emerged through four stages, beginning with the imperial denial of the origins of collective violence committed against Armenians that commenced in 1789 and continued until 1907, followed by the Young Turk denial of violence lasting for a decade from 1908 to 1918, then an early republican denial taking place from 1919 to 1973, and culminating with the late republican denial of the responsibility for the collective violence started in 1974, which continues to this day.

Fatma Müge Göçek is professor of sociology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan. She received her B.A. and M.A. in sociology from Bogaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey in 1979 and 1981, and another M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University in 1984 and 1988. She has received, among others, a Diversity Award, Excellence in Education Award, and Women in Leadership Award from U-M and has also been a Senior Fellow at the Michigan Society of Fellows (2004-08). Her publications include her sole-authored books The Transformation of Turkey: Redefining State and Society from the Ottoman Empire to the Modern Era (IB Tauris, 2011); Rise of the Bourgeoisie, Demise of Empire: Ottoman Westernization and Social Change(Oxford, 1996); and East Encounters West: France and the Ottoman Empire in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 1987); as well as her edited volumes A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire (with Ronald Grigor Suny and Norman Naimark) (Oxford, 2011); and Social Constructions of Nationalism in the Middle East(SUNY, 2002). Her most recent sole-authored book is Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present and Collective Violence against the Armenians, 1789-2009 (Oxford, 2014).

Sponsors: Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; Armenian Studies Program; Center for European Studies

Fatma Müge Göçek, professor of sociology and women’s studies, U-M