RESTORING ARMENIAN RUINS, MEMORIES AND COMMUNITIES IN PRESENT-DAY EASTERN TURKEY Illustrated talk by Dr Laurent Dissard

  • Armenian House 25 Cheniston Gardens London, England, W8 6TG United Kingdom

This talk first examines the state of Armenian cultural heritage in present-day Eastern Turkey. It navigates from a recently renovated Armenian church in Tigranakert/Diyarbakır to a community centre in the Armenian village of Vak’if/Vakıflı Köyü, and from a newly restored Armenian fountain in Habap/Ekinözü to an Armenian cemetery just outside Arapgir. By using such examples, the talk demonstrates how restoring Armenian ruins can also work to rebuild memories, communities and identities. In the end, it contextualises these attempts to “restore” within: 1. present-day Turkey’s contested political and social landscapes, and 2. recent attempts by its Ministry of Culture and Tourism, among other public and private actors, to “sell" its past.

Dr Laurent Dissard is a Junior Research Fellow at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies. After completing his PhD in Near Eastern Studies at University of California at Berkeley, he received a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Penn Humanities Forum at the University of Pennsylvania to work on his book manuscript Submerged Stories: Dams and Cultural Erasure in Eastern Turkey, forthcoming with MIT Press. The book takes dams as symbols of Turkey’s "modernisation" and their associated reservoirs - artificial lakes inundating river valleys and their cultural heritage - as metaphors for the country’s "submerged stories."