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Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association 2:1 (2015): 167-183 David Gutman  Ottoman Historiography and the End of the Genocide Taboo: Writing the Armenian Genocide into Late Ottoman History Dadrian, Vahakn. The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. New York: Berghahn Books, 1995. Erickson, Edward. Ottomans and Armenians: A Study in Counterinsurgency. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Kevorkian, Raymond. The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History. London: I.B. Tauris, 2011. Lewy, Gunter. The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2005. McCarthy, Justin, et al. The Armenian Rebellion at Van. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2006. McCarthy, Justin, et al. Sasun: The History of an 1890s Armenian Revolt. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2014. In 2006, Donald Quataert published a review of Donald Bloxham’s book, The Great Game of Genocide, an analysis of the role of the Great Powers in the lead up to and during the Armenian genocide.1 While taking note of the book’s many strengths, Quataert faulted the author for his inability systematically to consult Ottoman and Turkish language primary and secondary sources, and his seeming lack of familiarity with the historical literature on the late Ottoman Empire. Yet, Quataert reserved his harshest criticism for the field of Ottoman studies, stating: Ottomanists—like me—have long surrendered academic study of this vital topic to those unable or unwilling to use the Ottoman archives and other Ottoman-language sources, failing to take the rightful responsibility to perform the proper research. Oddly, Ottomanists fall into a camp of either silence or denial—both of which are forms of complicity. Those  David Gutman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY; email: david.gutman@mville.edu 1 Donald Quataert, “The Massacres of Ottoman Armenians and the Writing of Ottoman History,” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 37:2 (2006): 249-59. 168 David Gutman who have the linguistic and paleographic tools to unlock the truth must not leave the matter for others to debate and resolve.2 Quataert’s bold criticism of the field’s inability to confront one of the most important chapters in the 623-year-long history of the Ottoman Empire, the genocidal annihilation of the Armenian populations of eastern Anatolia, was not without consequence. Shortly after its publication, Quataert resigned as chairman of the Institute of Turkish Studies after the Turkish government threatened to revoke the Institute’s funding if he did not retract his use of the word genocide. As one of the field’s most prominent and accomplished scholars, Quataert’s review marked an important step in challenging the culture of self-censorship surrounding the Armenian genocide. At the same time, his dismissal as chairman of the Institute of Turkish Studies demonstrated the extent to which the subject remained taboo.3 It also revealed the uncomfortably close relationship between the Turkish government and the field of Ottoman and Turkish studies. Nearly ten years since the publication of Quataert’s review, and with the centenary of the genocide now upon us, Ottoman historiography appears to be gradually moving beyond this policy of self-censorship. This review article examines the evolution of Armenian genocide historiography in recent decades. It focuses especially on how Ottoman historians’ silence or outright denial has shaped existing literature on the genocide. In recent years, the publication of several works based on extensive work in Ottoman and Turkish language archival sources has begun to provide a clearer picture of the factors that led to the genocide. Much of this work, however, continues to be done by scholars who lack training in the field of Ottoman history. As a result, in the secondary literature on the genocide the event remains largely unmoored from its place within the broader history of the empire. As we move past the genocide taboo, this article ends with a discussion of avenues of research, the development of which can allow Ottoman historians to provide a firmer historical and theoretical foundation for understanding the genocide.4 2 Ibid., 258. 3 Ample evidence exists of this taboo surrounding the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2376-0702
Print ISSN
2376-0699
Pages
pp. 167-183
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-18
Open Access
No
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