Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Improvising Turkishness: Being Armenian in post-Ottoman Istanbul (1918-1933)
by Ekmekcioglu, Lerna, Ph.D., New York University, 2010, 323; 3408347
Abstract (Summary)

Focusing on Armenian intellectuals and public figures in Constantinople/Istanbul from the immediate aftermath of World War I into the first decade of the Republic of Turkey, this dissertation is an initial study which demonstrates that Armenian self-identification in Turkey drastically changed from the 1918-1922 period to the 1923-1933 period. I argue that in both phases, women, both as historical actors and sites of discourse, were central to the improvisation of being Armenian in Turkey.

The post-1918 anti-Turkish nationalism aspired to incorporate women as political activists and humanitarian aid workers in the service of genocide survivors who filled the city as sickly refugees. Moreover, women were urged to bear more and more children to populate the Greater Armenia, a territory that they were hoping to rule over through their lobbying efforts in the Paris Peace Conference. In the post-1923 period, the nationalizing measures of the Turkish nation-state forced Armenians to publicly Turkify. Yet, Armenians resisted full Turkification: they turned inward and promoted domesticity not only for their women but also for their men. Assertions of Armenianness, such as mother tongue, traditions, religious practices, and historical memory, were to be preserved inside Armenian households and other communal spaces, including church and school, which were relatively immune from the interventions of the Turkish state. Women, understood as the vessels of the nation’s essence and its ultimate transmitters, became key figures for the preservation of Armenians’ differences from those of the majority. Armenian responses to Turkification included many diasporic tactics, moments, qualities, and practices. This was true despite the fact that Armenians in early Turkish Republic lacked geographical mobility. A drastic change in power relations dis-placed them while they stayed put.

Another political project that put primary emphasis on women’s traditional duties to the nation was Armenian feminism, which lived its heyday in Istanbul in the 1920s. Aware of the heightened role of their sex to the fate of their nation, some urban, middle and upper class, well-educated Constantinopolitan Armenian women exploited the conditions around them to further their scope of activities. The main primary source consulted for this study, a women’s biweekly, was edited by Hayganoush Mark, a prominent Armenian feminist in the 1920s. Hay Gin (Armenian Woman, 1919-1933) is central to this dissertation also because it was a unique periodical that continued uninterrupted publication from the immediate postwar years into the early Republican period.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Peirce, Leslie
Commitee: Fahmy, Khaled, Frierson, Elizabeth B., Lockman, Zachary, Nolan, Mary
School: New York University
Department: Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and History
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 71/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Middle Eastern history, Modern history, Gender studies
Keywords: Armenian women, Diaspora, Feminism, Genocide, Orphans, Refugees, Turkey
Publication Number: 3408347
ISBN: 978-1-124-04442-2
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