Co-Winner of the 2015-17 Der Mugrdechian SAS Outstanding Book Award, sponsored by the Society for Armenian Studies.
Recovering Armenia offers the first in-depth study of the aftermath of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and the Armenians who remained in Turkey. Following World War I, as the victorious Allied powers occupied Ottoman territories, Armenian survivors returned to their hometowns optimistic that they might establish an independent Armenia. But Turkish resistance prevailed, and by 1923 the Allies withdrew, the Turkish Republic was established, and Armenians were left again to reconstruct their communities within a country that still considered them traitors. Lerna Ekmekcioglu investigates how Armenians recovered their identity within these drastically changing political conditions.
Reading Armenian texts and images produced in Istanbul from the close of WWI through the early 1930s, Ekmekcioglu gives voice to the community's most prominent public figures, notably Hayganush Mark, a renowned activist, feminist, and editor of the influential journal Hay Gin. These public figures articulated an Armenianess sustained through gendered differences, and women came to play a central role preserving traditions, memory, and the mother tongue within the home. But even as women were being celebrated for their traditional roles, a strong feminist movement found opportunity for leadership within the community. Ultimately, the book explores this paradox: how someone could be an Armenian and a feminist in post-genocide Turkey when, through its various laws and regulations, the key path for Armenians to maintain their identity was through traditionally gendered roles.
About the author
Lerna Ekmekcioglu is Associate Professor of History and Women's Studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"Lerna Ekmekcioglu's radically revealing and provocative book challenges conventional historical wisdom in its exploration of the continued existence of an Armenian minority in modern Turkey. Her passionate, yet careful analysis of gender and nation demonstrates the central — and paradoxical — role of women and gender politics in both creating and foreclosing possibilities for Armenian identity, gender equality, and co-existence in post-genocide Turkey."
—Atina Grossmann, The Cooper Union
"With verve, passion and wit, Ekmekcioglu shows how central women were to the restoration of the Armenian community in the decade after the genocidal war. Recovering Armenia is a must-read for all students of the Great War and its aftermath, and for anyone who wants to understand the modern Middle East and the roots of sectarian conflict that continues in the region today."
—Elizabeth Thompson, University of Virginia
"This remarkably innovative history offers two indispensable analytical narratives. It crafts the first thorough account of the ways in which, between 1918 and 1933, Armenian survivors of the genocide committed by Ottoman Turkey inventively reconstituted themselves as a harshly constrained yet enduring national minority within the new Turkish Republic. Second, it offers an often inspiring account of how, within this officially second-class community whose necessarily gendered behavioral repertoire made women second-class members of that community, feminists nevertheless found new ways simultaneously to be an Armenian feminist subject of the Turkish nation-state and for the Armenian ethnonation. A pioneering work that will prove indispensable."
—Khachig Tölölyan, Wesleyan University
"The impacts of genocide generate shock waves, altering lives for generations to come. This excellent book illuminates the hitherto unstudied aftermath of the Armenian Genocide as negotiated by those few who remained in the Turkish Republic. A must-read for anyone interested in the effects of collective violence."
—Fatma Müge Göçek, University of Michigan, author of Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present, and Collective Violence against the Armenians
" ... people will surely turn to Ekmekçiolu's book to learn about an important but long-neglected aspect of this tumultuous period and the remarkable women who tried to push their society and city in an enlightened and progressive direction."
—Resat Kaaba, Journal of Levantine Studies
"Ekmekçioğlu's pioneering book opens up a number of important fields that await examination by later generations of scholars. Among them, I will point out one of the most critical: intercommunal relations, especially the struggles of feminists against conservative power holders in the community...As Ekmekçioğlu exhaustively demonstrates, the Armenian press of the period remains an invaluable source for understanding the extent of this dimension and the remarkable power of Armenian feminism in a critical era of Armenian history."
—Yasar T. Cora, H-Nationalism
"This ground-breaking book by Lerna Ekmekiolu should be regarded as a substantial contribution to the literature on post-genocide Armenian women's identity...overall a solid work that sheds new light on the history of Turkified Armenians, of feminist activism mainly in the decade after the Armenian genocide and the connection between feminism and nationalism. The book should stimulate debate within the scholarly community on Armenian history and gender studies, while also serving as an important basis for further research on these topics."
—Eldad Ben-Aharon, Patterns of Prejudice