Ohannes Kılıçdağı 

Time and Space Problematics in Studying Genocides: The Armenian Case


Genocides, like every phenomenon in history, take place at certain intersections of time and space. This simple truth entails some further questions that are not so simple to answer: When does a genocide start? Does it start when “the first victim” of the targeted group is killed, or when the conditions of the killings are shaped? Can one claim a moment or event after which a genocide becomes inevitable? Or, is asserting such moments inevitably teleological? Similar questions can be asked for space dimension: Where does a genocide “happen”? Where is its “key” story written? Where it is planned or where it is executed? Is it possible to distinguish “epicenter(s)” of a genocide? Motivated by such questions, this paper discusses the problematic of time and space in studying, analyzing and writing about the Armenian Genocide. 

Space problem in studying the Armenian Genocide means to what extent researchers should focus on local and individual micro-stories in the narration and description of the genocide. What are the benefits and risks of going into the details of regional and personal stories in narrating and analyzing the Armenian Genocide? It was executed in hundreds of different localities including urban centers as well as rural areas. Each city, town, and village has its own (hi)story of genocide. These accounts have many common points but many essential differences as well. Does focusing on each of those stories enhance our understanding of the genocide or cause a myopic look missing its totality? Secondly, the problematic of time refers to how far researchers should go back to the times before the Armenian Genocide erupted to narrate and explain it. The Tanzimat Period? The reign of Abdulhamid II? The 1908 Revolution? When were “the seeds” of the genocide were sown? Or, is it completely misleading to search for such seeds?

The paper seeks the answers of these questions by focusing on the different localities of the Armenian genocide such as Van, Diyarbekir and Aintab