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Reconciliation and the Armenian Genocide

Friday, May 3rd of the 2019 ASN Conference featured Vahagn Avedian’s (Lund U, Sweden) “Knowledge and Acknowledgement in the Politics of Memory of the Armenian Genocide” book panel. Participating were Jennifer M. Dixon (Villanova U, US) and Klas-Göran Karlsson (Lund U, Sweden), with Gabrielle Lynch (U of Minnesota, US) as Chair.

Vahagn Avedian’s Knowledge and Acknowledgement in the Politics of Memory of the Armenian Genocide poses the simple yet century old question of why is the Armenian genocide still such a topical hotbed? Intertwining with the themes of political memory, identity and reconciliation, Avedian sheds light on ‘borderline events’. Simply put, these are important events in politics of memory, which shape the knowledge and politics of the Armenian genocide. These events emerge as international political issues that in turn changed the world once they unfolded. Although painful, these moments return consistently, even though they do not fit in normal narratives.

Naturally, narratives do indeed differ, which was repeatedly acknowledged during the panel as Avedian observed the Armenian bottom-up, as well as the Turkish top-down perspectives. Frankly, the author and general consensus of the panel support that the issue of the genocide should be addressed directly at the outset for rapprochement. While some people think that reconciliation is a concrete step, this is the mistake of not dealing with the politics of memory that will instead result in reconciliation as a final product. This head-on reconciliation entails responsibility from the international community and third party states, who have fallen in the habit of exonerating themselves of any responsibility to crimes against humanity during the Armenian genocide.

To conclude, Avedian admits that closure is not possible, however acknowledgement can go a long way. Nonetheless, recognition comes with challenges as countries such as the US and Israel play on the denialist rhetoric. While many countries do admit the the “g” word took place, there is a resistance to recognize it as such. Principally, other states want good relations with Turkey, which Avedian ultimately advances as the missing factor to reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia.

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