Remembrance on the Doorsteps of the Appropriated Armenian Property in Van

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:40
Location: Seminarraum Geschichte 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Eren YETKIN, Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
The ruins of the old city centre of Van, Turkey, built and occupied for thousands of years by the autochtone Armenian community who had perished with the Armenian Genocide 1915, looms in the background of the new “downtown“ of the modern city. The ruins are uninhabited and isolated with fences and wires by the governorship. Similarly, the ancient Armenian monasteries in the rural area of Van that were plundered and appropriated during as well as after the genocide has fostered new Kurdish settlements nearby. The streets, hills and hidden corners of the centre and villages of Van contain a great number of such spots that can well be defined as Gedenkorte or traumatische Orte (Assmann 1999; cf. Celik & Dinc 2015). 

This paper discusses the influences of the appropriated Armenian property in the urban / public spaces of the region and tracks the traces of the remembrance on the Armenian past — through these buildings — in the biographies of Kurdish people. The study is based on narrative interviews and ethnographical documents. 

With the growing awareness in Kurdish society on the Armenian Genocide (Ibid.; Biner 2010) and on the participation of the ancestors (Gerlach 2010), the young generation challenges the denialist representation of the state and grandfathers posing the question “Why does an Armenian church stand in a village that is bereft of Armenians?“. Moreover, the phenomena — interrelating the state oppression on Kurds with the Armenian Genocide - occurs in narratives. In this regard, this paper, centred around a comparative questioning — centre versus periphery and state (denialism) versus individual (remembrance) (Libaridian 2004), focuses on the complex relationship between remembrance and the place through social mnemonics (Olick 2008; Woolfson 2013). Different positions and remembrance regimes about the public spaces related to the genocide will be included in the discussion.