By Aram Arkun
WASHINGTON — The Society for Armenian Studies (SAS), a primarily American association of scholars and supporters of Armenology, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. It held an international conference in Yerevan in October, and on November 21-22, it convened a conference in Washington, DC called “Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th-20th Centuries.”
SAS Executive Council President Dr. Kevork B. Bardakjian, Marie Manoogian Professor of Armenian Language and Literature at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, welcomed participants and guests. Chairman of the conference organizing committee Dr. Bedross Der Matossian, assistant professor of Modern Middle East History in the Department of History at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, spoke of the attempt to organize three panels, on the following topics: the contribution of the Armenians to Ottoman culture, society, art and architecture; Armenians of the Empire from the Balkan Wars to World War I; and the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath. Unfortunately no submissions were received on the second topic, but speakers for one panel on the first range of topics, and two on the last, were found.
In fact, Der Matossian felt the first panel “should be seen as a microcosm of what type of research needs to be done in order to bring back the Armenians into Ottoman history and reconstruct their history.” The focus on the Armenian Genocide for the other two panels, he said, was fitting due to the approaching centennial of the start of that event. Der Matossian also stated that “From the academic perspective, a lot of work needs to be done in understanding the complexities of the Armenian Genocide beyond the clichés of Muslims vs. Christians or Turks vs. Armenians.” He concluded that Armenian Genocide studies can go beyond the analysis of a specific event to provide “new empirical data and thematic approaches to understand mass violence in general.”
Der Matossian thanked Prof. Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Berberian Endowed Director of the Armenian Studies Program at California State University, Fresno, for help in organizing the conference and SAS Secretary Ani Kasparian, of University of Michigan, Dearborn, for preparing registration materials.