Skip to Content

Search: {{$root.lsaSearchQuery.q}}, Page {{$}}

November 2023 | From the Foundational Crime to the Making of a New State (and Nation): The End of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Turkish Republic

Eleventh Workshop on Armenian and Turkish Scholarship
WATS XI, November 10-11, 2023

To mark the centennial year of the founding of the Turkish republic, WATS (the Workshop on Armenian and Turkish Scholarship) has decided to organize an eleventh workshop at the University of Michigan in the fall of 2023 under the auspices of the Center for Armenian Studies.

Marking the centenary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey, our conference aims to bring a critical perspective on the process of making states that involved ethnic cleansing or genocide. Few modern states are free of dark histories of exclusion, forced assimilation, or more sanguinary solutions to the remnants of imperial diversity. Investigating states that were founded on dispossession of indigenous peoples, we examine the Turkish past and the histories of the United States, Israel, and Australia, among others. Turkey is not unique, but its achievement in ridding Anatolia of Armenians and Assyrians, like the removal of Native Americans from continental United States, was admired by and positively referred to by Adolph Hitler as he planned his own genocidal policies in the lands to the east of Germany.

Our conference examines the ideological and strategic choices made by Ottoman and Turkish nationalist leaders as they attempted to “modernize” their states through coercive demographic policies and the deployment of violence, which became enshrined as part of the repertoire of governance in the Kemalist state. Having eliminated the bulk of Christians, the heirs of the Ottomans repressed their former allies, the Kurds, turning what they conceived as a homogeneous ethnic nation-state into a mini-imperial state colonizing its non-Turkish subjects.

Just as the controversial 1619 Project in the United States has contested the origins of the American republic by seeking its beginnings with the first importation of African slaves, rather than the revolutionary events of 1776, so shall this workshop explore the formative events and processes from the initiation of systemic reforms in the Ottoman Empire in 1789, through the Tanzimat reforms of 1839 and 1876, the coup d’état of 1908 and the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1916, to the 1918 fall of the empire, the 1919-1922 rise of the Kemalist nationalist movement, and the 1923 founding of the Republic of Turkey.

9:30 Introduction: Gottfried Hagen, Fatma Müge Göcek, Ronald Grigor Suny

10:00-12:00 Session I: From Reform to Revolution
Chair and Discussant: Melanie Tanielian (University of Michigan).

Fatma Müge Göçek (University of Michigan) and Murat Özyüksel (University of British Columbia) Origins of the Republic of Turkey: Unionists and Local Congresses, 1918-1920

Keith Watenpaugh (University of California, Davis) – Kill the Armenian/Indian; Save the Turk/Man: Carceral Humanitarianism, the Transfer of Children and a Comparative History of Indigenous Genocide

Armen Manuk-Khaloyan (Georgetown University) – Intriguing Opportunities: International Finance, Great Power Diplomacy, and the Armenian National Banks Saga, 1912–1914

Umit Kurt (University of Newcastle, Australia) – Republic of Perpetrators: Talat Pasha’s Genocide Technocrat Mustafa Reşat Mimaroğlu

2:00-4:00 Session II: Revolution, War, Genocide and Their Afterlives
Chair and Discussant: Ronald Grigor Suny (University of Michigan)

Merisa Şahin (University of Michigan) –  The Early Young Turks and International Law: Carving an Ottoman Cosmopolitanism

Samuel Dolbee (Vanderbilt University) – Germs of Nationalism and Intercommunal Microbes in the Late Ottoman Empire

Sahika Karatepe (State University of New York, Binghamton) – Gendered Labor History of the Armenian Genocide: Slave Labor, Social Reproduction and Sexual Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire

Mehmet Polatel (Hrant Dink Foundation) – Restitution Under Occupation: Property Disputes in the Post-War Ottoman Empire

10:00-12:00 Session III: The Fate of a Nascent Civil Society
Chair and Discussant: Gottfried Hagen (University of Michigan)

Heghnar Watenpaugh (University of California, Davis) –  Captive Sites and Survivor Objects: Theorizing the Cultural Heritage of Armenians in and out of Turkey

Ceren Verbowski (York University) – Ernst Diez as an “Enemy of the Turks”: A Historical Debate on the Purity of Turkish Art in the Face of Armenian and Byzantine Remains

Aram Ghoogasian (Princeton University) – Swords and Pens: Forging a Turkish Canon

Elif Shannon-Chastain (University of California, Irvine) – The Mother of the Turkish Theater: Knar Svajian and the Transformation and: Turkification of the Ottoman-Armenian Theater, 1908-1926

2:00-4:00 Session IV: Occupation, War of Liberation, and the Establishment of Violence as a Tool of Rule
Chair and Discussant: Hakem Al-Rustom (University of Michigan).

David Gaunt (Södertörn University) – Expulsion, Submission or Survival: Assyrian Christians in the Early Republic of Turkey

Ari Şekeryan (Independent Scholar) – The ‘Armistice Complex’ and the Foundation of the Republic of Turkey: Revisiting the Precarious Situation of the Armenian Community

Cevat Dargin (University of Michigan) – Roadlessness: Ottoman Modernity Navigating Uncharted Dersim

Vahram Ter-Matevosyan (American University of Armenia) – Armenian Interpretations of Kemalism in the 1920-40s: Rethinking Intellectual Debates on Turkey’s Ideological Foundations

4:30-6:00 Session V: Roundtable: The Fatal Impossibility of Democracy: 100 Years of False Starts and Failures

Fatma Müge Göçek (University of Michigan)
Ronald Grigor Suny (University of Michigan Emeritus)