WORCESTER, Mass. — Taner Akçam, a Turkish historian, author, sociologist and activist has been appointed to the Kaloosdian-Mugar chair at Clark University’s Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide studies. Currently, a visiting associate professor of history at the University of Minnesota, he will assume his new position in September.
Akçam is well known as one of the first Turkish academics to acknowledge and discuss openly the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Turkish government in 1915. He is the author of many articles and books, most recently A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility, which straightforwardly addresses the role of the Ottoman government in the Genocide of oneand-
a-half million Armenians.
Born in Kars in 1953, Akçam studied at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1976. That same year, he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for his activities as editor-in-chief ofa political journal. He later escaped and lived for some years in Germany as a political refugee and taught courses at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research on the history of violence and torture in Turkey.
Akçam has spoken of his views before many Armenian audiences at academic conferences and cultural institutions and has gained general acceptance as a Turkish scholar who is willing to address the truth of the Armenian Genocide. There are some who have criticized him for not supporting Armenian claims to Turkish land and who lament that there are not enough Armenian academics to fill available positions.
Genocide scholar Vahan Dadrian has said of Akçam and his recent book, “He is one of a handful of scholars who are challenging their homeland’s insistent declarations that the organized slaughter of Armenians did not occur’ and he was the first Turkish specialist to use the word ‘genocide’ publicly in this context. His new book represents the first scholarly attempt to both document the Genocide and understand that genocide from a perpetrator, rather than victim perspective, and to contextualize fully the events of 1915 within Turkey’s political history, and western political policies towards the region more generally.”
Director of Programs and Publications at the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) Marc Mamigonian said of the appointment, “Clearly, the symbolism is important. It’s obviously significant to have someone of Turkish background be appointed as chair of Genocide studies. Eventually, the novelty and controversy around this appointment will fade. He has established his credibility
with most of the Armenian community as a scholar and a researcher.”
Deborah Dwork, director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, said, “Taner was chosen for this position because of his outstanding scholarship and also for his political courage. He provides a wonderful role model for our entire community, in terms of his dedication to research and knowledge and his dedication to truth.”
Dwork said that Akçam will teach a wide range of courses, including the history of the Armenian Genocide, the history of the Ottoman Empire and a history of the Armenian people’s life and culture.
Said Dwork, “This is an outstanding appointment for us. I very much look forward to having Taner as my colleague, as do all the faculty here.”