AUP graduation ceremony at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

George and Irina Schaeffer Center

Genocide and Genealogy: How Armenian Family Trees Speak of 1915

University Room: Omid & Gisel Kordestani Rooftop Conference Center (Q-801)
6 Rue du Colonel Combes 75007
Friday, April 5, 2024 - 17:00 to 19:00

The Schaeffer Center is honored to host Ayşenur Korkmaz for a lecture entitled “Genocide and Genealogy: How Armenian Family Trees Speak of 1915” on the Friday, April 5th, 2024 at 17h00.

Scholars in genocide studies employ various research methods and genres like oral history, eyewitness testimonies, autobiography, and memoirs to uncover narratives about mass atrocities. However, limited attention has been devoted to the practice of genealogy despite a long-standing interest among several communities whose pasts are entangled with violence and displacement. Genealogy both as a methodological inquiry and a form of history-writing has the potential to uncover marginalized narratives of victims and to contextualize the regimes of silence that consign those perspectives to the peripheries of historical consciousness. This talk explores how the descendants of Armenian genocide survivors in Armenia have embraced genealogy as a means to record or discover familial pasts during the transition from Soviet to post-Soviet era. Many document their lineage through family trees (tohmatsar), kept in family archives, displayed in homes, or published in autobiographies, memoirs, and local village books. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork in Armenia, I explore how these family trees the histories of a catastrophe that befell Ottoman-Armenians in 1915-16. I argue that they are more than mere tools for preserving ancestral information. They take on a testimonial quality, materially transmitting a past catastrophic experience of the genocide into the present. They address the fate of dead and the missing with symbols of truncated branches, Christian crosses, or date marks while celebrating the survivors and the continuous blossoming of lineages in the face of genealogical disruption. By putting generations branch after branch, these trees inspire a sense of immortality projected onto the future.


Ayşenur Korkmaz is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (2023-24). She holds a Ph.D. in the Department of European Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests lie in the nexus between mass violence, cultural heritage, and genealogy in post-genocide landscapes. Her book project focuses on how genealogical imaginaries and the practice of pedigree-making in Armenia tell the histories of the Armenian genocide from a bottom-up grassroots perspective. Korkmaz also published several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on the Hamidian Massacres, the Armenian genocide, post-genocide memories in Soviet Armenia, and Armenian roots tourism in eastern Turkey.


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