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‘Stories of dreadful iniquities and unutterable suffering’

‘Stories of dreadful iniquities and unutterable suffering’

Fri, Feb 4, 2022 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM Pacific Standard Time (UTC-8)

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Speakers: Dr. Melissa Bilal/ Commentator: Dr. Zeynep Korkman

About this event

“Stories of dreadful iniquities and unutterable suffering:” Feminist Voices on Violence, Memory and Displacement

Welcome to the Series Event of the 5th Annual Racial Violence Hub Workshop: Feminist Approaches to Theorizing Genocidal Violence, Wars and Occupations, a series of The Racial Violence Hub and Penny Kanner Endowed Chair in Gender Studies.

In this series, we discuss the genocidal violence of everyday life. On the first Friday of each month from November to April (six sessions), in the spirit of collaboration, feminist scholars will gather to present virtually on works in progress on the theme of genocidal violence.

Presenter: Dr. Melissa Bilal

Paper Title: “‘Stories of dreadful iniquities and unutterable suffering:’ Theorizing Arshaguhi Teotig’s Indigenous Feminist Voice in relation to Mass Violence against Ottoman Armenians”

My talk will focus on Armenian feminist writer, journalist, educator, and activist Arshaguhi Teotig and her monograph Amis Me I Giligia (A Month in Cilicia) which is a historic text testifying to the aftermath of the 1909 Cilician massacres against Armenians and presenting the political voice of an Ottoman Armenian intellectual woman. Arshaguhi Teotig visited Armenian political prisoners who were unjustly convicted by false accusations by the Young Turk government and the local Ottoman authorities. She questioned the legitimacy of a legal system that worked for the benefit of the sovereign power. Documenting in detail what she heard from the participants of the Dört-Yol resistance, she offered her philosophy on people’s right to self-defense. Arshaguhi Teotig was one of those women whose husbands were arrested, deported, and murdered during the Armenian genocide of 1915-1922. She joined the Armenian Women’s Association which was founded to make women active agents in the post-war, post-genocide campaigns for orphan relief, collecting abducted women, reviving the communal life, and documenting women’s and children’s suffering during the war. The right to self-defense she gave so much thought to after the 1909 massacres, was now presenting itself as a possibility of self-determination. Like many Armenian intellectuals of her time, she was convinced that the international community if properly informed by the crimes committed against Armenians during the war, would deliver justice, in this case in the form of territorial sovereignty. The report she put together was the last activity of the women’s organization she was a member of. Founded in 1879 with a dedication to advance female education, this organization was already dismantled during the genocide by the Turkish authorities and its 50 schools were destroyed, students, staff, education board, and parents were deported and killed. Arshaguhi herself would die soon after, of TB she got due to the poor conditions she had to endure during the war years. During my talk, I will raise questions about how to theorize Arshaguhi Teotig’s indigenous feminist voice in relation to the genocidal/colonial structures and feminist silences in Turkey today.

Commentator: Dr. Zeynep Korkman

Presenter Bio

Dr. Melissa Bilal is the Associate Director of the Armenian Music Program and Lecturer in the Department of Ethnomusicology at UCLA. Previously a Distinguished Research Fellow at CNES, before UCLA, she was an Assistant Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the American University of Armenia, where she continues serving as a core team member developing the Gender Studies minor program. Dr. Bilal studied Sociology (BA and MA) at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul and received her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Chicago. She taught at the University of Chicago’s Departments of Music and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Boğaziçi University’s History Department, and the Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies Department at Columbia University, where she also held a two-year Mellon postdoctoral teaching fellowship in the Department of Music

Commentator Bio

Dr. Zeynep Korkman is an assistant professor of Gender Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her teaching and research interests include transnational feminisms; cultural politics; gender, labor, and affect; and religion, secularism, and the public sphere, with a regional focus on Turkey and the larger Middle East. Her primary scholarly agenda is to explore how gender and sexual minorities survive, resist, and even thrive within neoconservative and neoliberal encroachment upon their life worlds. Her book-in-progress, tentatively titled Gendered Fortunes: Feelings, Publics, and Labors of Divination in Postsecular Turkey, focuses on gendered practices and discourses of divination as a means of economic survival and cultural expression for women and LGBTIQ individuals in contemporary Turkey.

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