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Center for Armenian Studies Events

For previous years' guest speakers and topics, please visit the Center for Armenian Studies poster and flyer archive.

We also encourage you to check out a selection of CAS video recordings on our Videos of Past Events page and on our YouTube channel.

CAS Lecture | Race, Environment, and the Modern Middle East: A Historical Microanalysis

Dr. Cevat Dargin, 2022-23 Manoogian Postdoctoral Fellow
Monday, December 12, 2022
3:00-4:00 PM
Room 555 Weiser Hall Map
This hybrid event will be held in person and via zoom on Monday, December 12th at 3:00 PM.

On Campus Location: Weiser Hall 555

Zoom Alternative:

Meeting ID: 912 9148 8313
Passcode: 649856

This talk explores the role that the late imperial Ottoman and early republican Turkish state elites attributed to environmental factors in their racialization of the Kizilbash (Alevi) Kurdish inhabitants of the Dersim region in Eastern Anatolia as being “Muslim sons of Muslims”in 1890s to becoming “Turkish sons of Turks” by 1930s. State elites developed a double-sided racialization process from the late nineteenth century onwards. In their internal writings, they never doubted the Kurdishness of the Dersimis, even after the state actors came to believe that they had successfully Turkified them. Publicly, however, they argued that Dersim Kurds were indeed the purest Turks; that their Kizilbash belief system, which the state elite had until then perceived as deviant and threatening, reflected primordial Turkish shamanism; and that Dersim’s inaccessible geography had preserved ancient Turkish characteristics in Dersim’s Alevis. First appearing in official reports and later spreading to private publications and media, by the 1940s, the “Turkishness” of Dersim Kurds was so established that government officials considered calling them Kurds in public tantamount to a curse. Using the historical developments in Dersim as a case in point, the talk elucidates the racialization of ethnic and religious communities in the Middle East in the course of transition from indirect imperial to centralized nation-state rule during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It sheds light on the historical backgrounds of some of the contemporary dynamics of structural racism in the region.

Cevat Dargın specializes in the modern history of the Middle East, with a focus on the transformation from indirect imperial to centralized nation-state rule through the lenses of environmental history across regimes changes and revolutions from the late eighteenth-century onwards, thereby challenging official narratives and conventional historiographies that treat such historical junctures as radical ruptures with the past. With a background in political science and Middle Eastern studies, Dr. Dargın integrates theoretical approaches from multiple disciplines and applies them to the study of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and environment through the histories of understudied and marginalized peoples and places in the peripheries and borderlands. He is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively titled Mountains and the Modern State: An Environmental History of State-Making in the Middle East. The book explores the role of environmental factors in shaping the transition to modernity in state-making in the Middle East through the case of Dersim, a region in Eastern Anatolia with a rich and diverse natural environment and a predominantly Alevi Kurdish population. The project covers the period from the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 to the Turkish state’s violent transformation of the region in 1937–38. Dr. Dargın received his PhD from Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies in 2021.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: armenia, history
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Armenian Studies, International Institute