FRESNO — Dr. Rebecca Jinks will present an in-person lecture entitled “‘And My Mother Gave Me Away’: Armenian Women Survivors’ Stories of ‘Absorption’ and Reintegration During and After Genocide” on Thursday, September 15, at 7 p.m., in the University Business Center, Alice Peters Auditorium, Room 191, on the Fresno State campus. The presentation is part of the Fall Lecture Series of the Armenian Studies Program and is supported by the Gladys Z. Ashjian Memorial Fund.
This lecture will discuss the experiences of Armenian women who were “absorbed” into Turkish, Kurdish, and Arab households during the Genocide of 1915, and who then escaped or were rescued after the Armistice and returned to the Armenian community. In the last ten years, scholars have begun to focus on this topic, and we now know much more about the forced conversion process, Armenian and international humanitarian relief efforts, and Armenian community responses.
But in order to truly understand the genocidal impact of “absorption,” religious conversion, and erasure of identity, the difficult decisions Armenian women made, and the lingering impacts on individuals and community during the process of reintegration, we need survivors’ stories. While fragmented, full of silences, and mediated by the passage of time, these stories allow us to reorient, and to consider not just what was done to these women, but how they experienced, fought, and accommodated the uncertainties, dislocations, violence, and losses. Historians have traditionally been wary of including Armenian survivors’ stories in their work, partly because of Turkish denial, but this project seeks to place them front and center, and to listen to their silences as well as their words.
In this lecture Jinks will explore some such stories, and she would be particularly interested to hear in the Q&A and after from any audience members who are able to share family histories or passed-down stories of “absorption” and reintegration.
Jinks is a historian of comparative genocide and humanitarianism at Royal Holloway, University of London. During her PhD, she won the first Raphael Lemkin Scholarship to the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute (Yerevan), and began researching international humanitarian responses to “absorbed” Armenian women, especially those who had been tattooed on their faces and bodies according to Bedouin custom. This research was published as “Marks Hard to Erase” in the American Historical Review (2018). Her current AHRC-funded research project, “Genocidal Captivity,” reorients and broadens this work to explore the experiences of Armenian and Yezidi women survivors of “absorption” and sexual slavery, and community and humanitarian responses in the aftermath. The project will result in a book and through interviews, collaboration with NGOs and a photojournalist, and an exhibition, the project also seeks to develop new, ethical ways of representing these experiences.
The lecture is free and open to the public.