Unarmed and Dangerous: Humanitarian Resistance during the Ottoman Genocides
Although scholarship on resistance to the Nazis during World War II has made great strides in recent decades toward broadening the spectrum of actions that constitute resistance, the literature on other cases of mass violence has been slow to catch up. The study of resistance during the genocide of the Christian populations of the Ottoman Empire, for instance, leaves much to be desired: The few works exploring resistance focus primarily on sporadic cases of armed action. The struggle against genocide denial has produced and perpetuated perpetrator-centric narratives (it was genocide, here’s why), and the related drive for genocide recognition around the globe has produced Western humanitarian-centric narratives. Thus, the action is genocide, the reaction is Western outrage and humanitarianism, while victims exercise little agency. Treating genocide largely as the action of the perpetrator while dismissing the reaction of the victim not only is ahistorical but also inadvertently reinforces the very act of the perpetrator to strip the victims of their agency. This paper, part of a larger research project on genocide and resistance, argues that unarmed resistance constitutes an integral part of the history of the Ottoman genocides, without which our understanding of the dynamics of mass violence will be at best incomplete.