Ron Grigor Suny
They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else
A History of the Armenian Genocide
Princeton University Press 2015
New Books in Christian StudiesNew Books in Genocide StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Islamic StudiesNew Books in Middle Eastern StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & Society January 19, 2016 Kelly McFall
Anniversaries are funny things. Sometimes, as with the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, they are accompanied by a flood of discussion and debate. Other times they are allowed to pass in silence.
The hundredth year anniversary of the Genocide of the Armenians has gotten somewhat lost amidst the outpouring of books about the war. Still, we’ve seen a small number of excellent historical studies, mostly focused on the memory of the event. Ron Suny’s recent book ‘They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else’: A History of the Armenian Genocide (Princeton University Press, 2015) offers a different kind of contribution. Suny offers a deep history of the Armenian genocide. It is simultaneously a careful explication of how and why the Armenians were killed and a carefully-reasoned engagement with the prevailing attempts to explain the genocide.
It’s a book everyone who cares about the genocide needs to read. Suny writes well and has an eye for quotes both pithy and grim. He fits well into the new imperial turn of historiography, seeing the emergence of the nation as a locus of identity that competed with and threatened more traditional, imperial states (for those of you interested in this, see my interview with Mark Levene). And he masters the tricky task of balancing narration and analysis. It’s a wonderful addition to our knowledge of the genocide, 100 years on. It well deserves to reach a wide audience.