100 Years Later: A Sociological Assessment Of The Armenian Genocide

Friday, July 18, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: F206
Oral Presentation
Edward TIRYAKIAN , Duke University, Durham, NC

            In 2004,  Alexander and five colleagues brought out  a constructivist sociological study of trauma (Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity) in marked contrast to the more psychoanalytically use of trauma in Kai Erikson’s classic disaster study, Everything in its Path. While both man-made and nature-made disasters, separately and interactively, can cause horrific damage, physical and psychological, the larger society and its international community can seek resources to mitigate the damage. Some actors may find it opportune for the collective memory of the traumatic event to remain “fresh” in the minds of actors, This is an area that has been understudied, either by Alexander et.al., or by Erikson.

            After that initial discussion, I turn to the systematic genocide of the Armenian population in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. Just as Kristallnacht, November 9/10, 1938, may be said to be the start of the Jewish Holocaust, so April 24, 1915 is accepted as the date memorializing the Armenian genocide that eventually claimed an estimated 1,500,000 lives, with an additional 500,000 brutally deported.

            The facticity of the genocide and the sociocultural context in which it occurred over a period of 20 years (1895-1923) is not my concern here, having been exhaustively studied. I will seek to assess the contemporary situation along some new avenues of research. First, an assessment of the demographic consequences of the genocide as trauma. Does the experience of being singled out for extermination lead a population to renounce reproducing itself or, on the contrary, to increase as much as possible, a sort of collective duty? Second, how can the perspective of the “other”, whose parents and grandparents may have been instrumental in the genocide, be positively altered? This is the area of reconciliation, forgiveness and restoration of trust, which has been relatively understudied.