09-12-2023: Remnants: Embodied Archives of the Armenian Genocide with author Professor Elyse Semerdjian in conversation with Distinguished Professor Beth Baron
Tuesday, September 12 2023 at 5 PM at The Skylight Room (9100) in The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Join MEMEAC for its second Anny Bakalian Lecture with Professor Elyse Semerdjian discussing her forthcoming book Remnants: Embodied Archives of the Armenian Genocide with Distinguished Professor Beth Baron.
For those unable to join in-person, a live stream is available by Zoom. Please register at: https://gc-cuny.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUvcu6prT4rGdePDxA6uWgXYwG2K9_WIgBW
Foremost among the images of the Armenian Genocide is the specter of tattooed Islamized Armenian women. Blue tribal tattoos that covered face and body signified assimilation into Muslim Bedouin and Kurdish households. Among Armenians, the tattooed survivor was seen as a living ethnomartyr or, alternatively, a national stain, and the bodies of women and children figured centrally within the Armenian communal memory and humanitarian imaginary. In Remnants, these tattooed and scar-bearing bodies reveal a larger history, as the lived trauma of genocide is understood through bodies, skin, and—in what remains of those lives a century afterward—bones.
With this book, Elyse Semerdjian offers a feminist reading of the Armenian Genocide. She explores how the Ottoman Armenian communal body was dis-membered, disfigured, and later re-membered by the survivor community. Gathering individual memories and archival fragments, she writes a deeply personal history, and issues a call to break open the archival record in order to embrace affect and memory. Traces of women and children rescued during and after the war are reconstructed to center the quietest voices in the historical record. This daring work embraces physical and archival remnants, the imprinted negatives of once living bodies, as a space of radical possibility within Armenian prosthetic memory and a necessary way to recognize the absence that remains.
Elyse Semerdjian is Professor of Islamic World/Middle Eastern History at Whitman College and President of the Syrian Studies Association. She teaches a broad range of courses on the subject of gender, sexuality, social history, culture, and politics of the Middle East. A specialist in the history of the Ottoman Empire and Syria, she authored ” Off the Straight Path”: Illicit Sex, Law, and Community in Ottoman Aleppo (Syracuse University Press, 2008) as well as several articles on gender, law, violence, and Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Semerdjian has received two Fulbright scholarships to fund her research in Syria. She has written the social history of the Armenians of Aleppo, focusing on the formative sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. She currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies and the Journal for the Society of Armenian Studies and recently finished her term as book review editor for the International Journal of Middle East Studies. In the Spring of 2013, she was the Dumanian Visiting Professor in Armenian Studies in The Department of Near Eastern Cultures and Languages at the University of Chicago. Her article “Naked Anxiety: Bathhouses, Nudity, and Muslim/non-Muslim Relations in Eighteenth-Century Aleppo” was published in the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies and won the Syrian Studies Association Best Article Prize in 2014. She was awarded a Cornell University Society for the Humanities Fellowship on the subject of “Skin” in 2016-2017. Her recent article, “Bone Memory: The Necrogeography of the Armenian Genocide in Dayr al-Zur, Syria,” Human Remains and Violence (2018) offers a preview of her forthcoming book, Remnants: Encrypted Bodies, Gender, and the Memory of the Armenian Genocide, under contract with Stanford University Press.
Beth Baron is Distinguished Professor of History at The City College and Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Director of the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center at the CUNY Graduate Center. A former editor of the International Journal of Middle East Studies and former president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, her most recent book is The Orphan Scandal: Christian Missionaries and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood (Stanford University Press, 2014). Her current research focuses on the history of childbirth, the body, and colonialism in Egypt.