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Scholars Present Papers at MESA

Staff Report

L to R.: Muge Salmaner, Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Fatma Ulgen, Rubina Peroomian, and Marc Mamigonian.
L to R.: Muge Salmaner, Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Fatma Ulgen, Rubina Peroomian, and Marc Mamigonian.

The Society for Armenian Studies (SAS) held its 36th Annual Membership Meeting on November 21, in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association held this year at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel in downtown Boston. The SAS represents more than 250 international scholars and teachers in the field of Armenian Studies.

President Richard Hovannisian of UCLA chaired the SAS meeting and reported on the major activities that the Society had organized in 2009. The highlight of the year was the Anniversary Conference held at UCLA in March, where dozens of scholars gathered for a series of panels on a variety of topics.

Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies editor Dr. Joseph Kéchichian reported that Volume 18:1 of the JSAS was just released and the JSAS 18:2 is getting ready to go to press. Subscription information for the Journal is available at http://armenianstudies.csufresno.edu/sas/JSAS18-1.htm. SAS members also participated during the year in various conferences, sponsored by other major scholarly organizations such as the American Historical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

Immediately following the SAS meeting, the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) hosted a reception for SAS members and guests at their headquarters in Watertown, Massachusetts. Community members from the Boston area had an opportunity to meet and interact with SAS members. Guests were given guided tours of the various exhibits in the museum, including a new one on Armenian textiles. This year’s MESA program, November 21-24, included several fascinating panels that had a direct connection to Armenian Studies. Each panel was scheduled for two hours and included various presenters and discussants.

Prof. Barlow Der Mugrdechian (Fresno State) organized a panel on “Remembrances and Reconciliation: Themes in Armenian and Turkish Literature” and presented a paper on “Memory and Identity in Fethiye Çetin’s Memoir My Grandmother.” The 2004 memoir is about Çetin and her grandmother, who had survived the Genocide and had been adopted into a Turkish family. How Çetin learned of her grandmother’s secret and how she was affected by it is the core of the memoir. Rubina Peroomian (UCLA) joined Der Mugrdechian on the panel and presented a paper on “Dare to Remember: The Istanbul Armenian Literature and the Unabated Memory of a Tragic Past.” Muge Salmaner (University of Washington) presented an interesting paper on “Cinematographic Representations of Trauma in Atom Egoyan’s Ararat.” Fatma Ulgen (UC San Diego) was the discussant for the panel and in her comments touched on the need for a change in Turkish civil society regarding the Genocide issue. Marc Mamigonian (NAASR) chaired the panel.

Another panel on “Turkish Armenians after 1915” was co-sponsored by the Society for Armenian Studies and the Turkish Studies Association, and included various papers on the Armenian experience in Turkey since the time of the Genocide.

A roundtable on “Integrating Armenians: New Sources and Approaches for Armenian History within Middle East Studies” featured four scholars who discussed their research and how to move Armenian Studies into a broader general arena. Elyse Semerdjian (Whitman College), Sebouh Aslanian (University of Michigan), Bedross Der Matossian (MIT), and Rachel Goshgarian (Zohrab Center) each gave their perspective on the issue before opening the session to a general discussion.

A two-part panel on “Former Ottomans and Contemporary Communities: Explorations in Reconciliation” was chaired by Fatma Müge Göçek (University of Michigan) and featured Armenian, Turkish, and Greek scholars who explored various aspects of reconciliation, both from a comparative and also interdisciplinary approach. These two panels attracted a large audience of more than 80 scholars, which is a large showing for a typical MESA panel.

The second part of the panel focused on memory and how confronting memory is so important in efforts to further reconciliation. Carel Bertram (San Francisco State) explored the role of Diasporan Armenians who have visited historic western Armenia, while Khatchig Mouradian (Clark University) discussed how civil initiatives are bridging the Turkish-Armenian divide.

Many individual scholars also presented papers at a variety of other panels throughout the conference. For full listing of the program panels and participants please go to the MESA website at http://www.mesa.arizona.edu/annual/current.htm. Next year’s SAS and MESA meeting will be held November 18-21, 2010 in San Diego.