Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Talk on Armenian Identities at the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Three Apples Fell from Heaven: An Exploration of Armenian Identities
 in the Ottoman and Post-Ottoman World

Rachel Goshgarian, Assistant Prof., Department of History, Lafayette College
A 17th-century Armenian (Dis)Placement: 
Deacon Mikayel of Kaffa/Միքայէլ Կաֆֆացի (d.c. 1670)
 and his Armenian and Turkish Texts

Nora Lessersohn, History and CMES, Harvard University
Sources of Ownership, Forces of Dispossession: 
The Memoir of Hovhannes Cherishian/Յովհաննէս Չիրիշեան 
of Marash (1886-1967)

Lerna Ekmekcioglu, McMillan-Stewart Associate Professor of History, MIT
Speaking Feminist while Armenian in Post-Genocide Turkey: 
Hayganush Mark/Հայկանոյշ Մառք (1885-1966)

Cemal Kafadar,Moderator
Vehbi Koc Professor of Turkish Studies, 
Department of History, Harvard University

During this 100 year remembrance of the Armenian Genocide. on a rainy Monday afternoon at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University (Marash Boy's old stomping grounds), scholars presented three different "apples" on Armenian life in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey.

Rachel Goshgarian, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Lafayette College, spoke of A 17th-century Armenian (Dis)Placement: Deacon Mikayel of Kaffa/Միքայէլ Կաֆֆացի (d.c. 1670) and his Armenian and Turkish Texts. Prof. Goshgarian discussed the ways in which Armeno-Turkish (Turkish written in Armenian letters) was used in the City of Kaffa in the 17th Century. In fact, she noted, Armeno-Turkish can be found as early as the 13th century, continuing in the lyric tradition through to the 20th century.  She found significance in the fact that most Armenian dictionaries were multi-lingual.

Her presentation hit home for Marash Girl.  Having grown up in an Armenian family where Turkish was spoken unabashedly, Marash Girl was delighted to hear that Armeno-Turkish (Turkish written in Armenian letters), went far beyond the Armeno-Turkish in Marash Girl's church hymnals and Marash Boy's grandmother's Bible . . . that the use of Armeno-Turkish goes as far back as the 13th century.  Marash Girl had not known of the word to describe this mixture -- "macaronic" --  a Latin word meaning a mixture of two languages!  And that this mix, according to Professor Goshgarian,  "reflects the relationship between faith and identity", a fact that Marash Girl, in her life, had certainly experienced both audibly as well as in print. The hymnal she had used growing up -- Spiritual Hymns of Worship (compiled, translated and edited by E. E. Elmajian in 1938), a hymnal which printed the lyrics of the hymns in English, in Armenian (Armenian letters) and in Turkish (Armenian letters) -- was used every Sunday in the United Armenian Brethren Evangelical Church of Watertown, Massachusetts, the church in which her Uncle, Rev. Vartan Bilezikian, was the pastor.  Prof. Goshgarian had described on Monday's rainy afternoon the reality in which Marash Girl had been raised. 

Nora Lessersohn, speaking about her grandfather's memoirs, The Memoir of Hovhannes Cherishian, opened her talk by describing her grandfather as a cobbler from Marash.  Marash Boy nearly leaped out of his seat (luckily he was seated in the front row) when he heard the words that described his own father, Nishan Charkoudian, who was a cobbler from Marash.  Lessersohn gave her audience an insight into her grandfather's world, her grandfather  who was born in Marash in 1867 and who left Marash following after the retreating French army (with many of Marash Boy's and Marash Girl's relatives) in a snowstorm  early in 1920.

Lerna Ekmekçioglu, McMillan-Stewart Associate Professor of History at MIT, approached the podium clutching a book in her hand, a book that had been given to her by a colleague in Istanbul.  Hayganush Mark: Geank'n u Kortses (1954), a book about the life and work of the woman who inspired Ekmekcioglu's  life: Hayganush Mark (1883-1966), the founder of the Armenian feminist movement in Turkey. A writer and editor in her own right, Hayganoush Mark married the publisher Vahan Toshigian in 1907. In 1919, Mark began writing and editing  Hay Gin (pronounced Hi Geen in Armenian which means "Armenian Woman"), a periodical for women that was published from 1919 to 1933 in Istanbul.  Ekmekçioglu notes that  Hay Gin, Mark's publication, was allowed to continue uninterrupted in Istanbul, Turkey, because Mark was a woman and the periodical was written by and for women,  thus posing no threat to the Turkish authorities.  
Photos by Marash Girl


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