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March 2017: Rescue or Internment? Orphans of the Armenian Genocide

Friday, March 17, 2017 | 2:00 PM-6:00 PM

1644 SSWB, 1080 S. University Ave.,
Ann Arbor MI 48109

By the end of World War I, an estimated number of 150,000 children were orphaned as the direct result of the Armenian Genocide. From Egypt to Greece, Syria, Turkey, and into the Caucasus, the child survivors became the subject of local, national, and international ‘rescue’ missions. This workshop seeks to highlight the multi-faceted experience of orphans during and after the war, expanding on the discussion of Nora Nercessian’s new book, The City of Orphans: Relief Workers, Commissars, and the ‘Builders of the New Armenia’ Alexandropol/ Leninakan 1919–1931. Nercessian diligently and meticulously researched the history of one of the largest orphanages near Alexandropol (now Gyumri).

The workshop will use the unique case of the City of Orphans to open a broader discussion addressing the utility of orphans and orphanages as subjects of historical analysis. How may we use the study of orphans and their institutionalization to challenge otherwise linear narratives of post-war nation-building and rehabilitation? If practices and processes internal to the orphanages were to forge proper citizens, how was citizenship understood, defined and negotiated? How did adults mitigate the rift between experiences of trauma and war, with hopeful narratives of the future? What were the mechanisms of making sense of the violent past? How does ‘childhood’ survive in spaces of confinement that serve ideologically informed state, society or international benevolent projects? Were orphanages places of rescue or of internment, and how do we comprehend the historical agency of the ‘rescued’ and/or ‘interned’?”

The workshop will be followed by the screening of the film – After this Day, directed by Nigol Bezjian.

Organizer: Melanie Tanielian, Assistant Professor of History, U-M