The poetics of history and memory : the multiple instrumentalities of Armenian genocide narratives / by Hrag Varjabedian.
Although the mass deportations and massacres of Ottoman Armenians took place in 1915, stories emanating from these traumatic events have stayed current, circulating and evolving throughout the generations. This study examines the underlying factors in the transmission and perpetuation of narratives related to the events of 1915 among Armenians of diaspora communities and the Republic of Armenia.The reasons for the history of the Armenian Genocide to remain current have been multiple. On a national level, one main factor contributing to the perpetuation of Genocide narratives has been the tug of war between the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish state and a need for its acknowledgment by the Armenians. But on a local level, Genocide narratives have had instrumental functions for the individuals who have kept them current by the retelling and reformulation of particular stories they have heard. The specific instrumentalities of Genocide narratives have depended on the historicity and subjectivity of the people who have engaged in their narration.I have concentrated on understanding the perpetuation of Genocide narratives as practiced and implemented by individuals at the local level rather than those perpetuated by national or political institutions. At the local level, there have been two main functions for their perpetuation, contingent on the sociocultural background of the individuals who utilize them. Individuals who have been part of Armenian social groups where the creation of a historical continuum has taken place through nationalization projects (Lebanese Armenians and Armenians within the Republic of Armenia) have engaged Genocide stories as national(ist) narratives and as a way of challenging authority. By contrast, individuals who have had discontinuities within their genealogy and historiography and have not been part of nationalization projects (acculturated American Armenians) have engaged these stories through personal narratives passed down by their survivor parents and grandparents. In this group, both professional artists employing deliberate narrative techniques and non-artists employing performative acts as a means of exploring Genocide history have engaged in these narratives through self-reflexivity, positioning their personal experiences within the stories of their survivor ancestors as a way of historicizing their ruptured genealogy and historiography.
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