Hitler famously said about the Armenian genocide “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
For much of the last 75 years, few people did in fact speak of it. When they did, the discussion largely revolved around the question of whether the killing deserved the label of genocide. Scholarly analysis did exist. But, in the public mind, it was largely swallowed up in a bitter debate about how to label, remember and interpret these events. Tuning out the vitriolic rhetoric, many of my students thought about Armenia only in the context of the lessons Hitler apparently drew from it.
This has gradually begun to change as historians and social scientists such as Taner AkÃ§a and Vahakn Dadrian have turned their attention to Armenia. The book that forms the subject of today’s interview–A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire (Oxford University Press, 2011), edited by Ronald Suny, Fatma MÃ¼ge GÃ¶Ã§ek, and Norman Naimark– is an outstanding example of this new scholarship. All three have a deep and long-lasting engagement with the subject and have played an important role in creating a dispassionate dialogue about the genocide.
A Question of Genocide forms one of the important outcomes of this dialogue. Its essays are models of careful analysis and research. Rather than attempting to present a complete narrative of events, they engage specific locations, questions or subjects. They demand careful attention and reflection. But, put together, they offer an excellent synopsis of the state of research and opinion on the period and subject.