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Saving the Armenians: Humanitarianism's Entanglement with Orientalist and Colonial Imaginaries

May 6, 2019 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Encina Hall West, Room 219

Free and open to the public.

This lecture examines the discourse of humanitarianism that was formed and flourished in the Middle East during the period when the Armenian minority population of the Ottoman Empire was subjected to mass exodus. In an effort to understand the characterizing features of the nature of the humanitarian ideology of the period, it will offer an analysis of the assumptions and ideas about race, nation, religion, who is entitled to be treated in the category of human. By outlining the kind of issues and problems that were regarded to be deserving humanitarian intervention, the lecture aims to understand the nature of the humanitarian imaginary that was constructed at the onset of the WWI. The grounds for decisions and preferences for deciding which race, religion and ethnic should receive humanitarian aid was shaped under the shadow of Orientalist and colonialist imaginaries which not only deployed the fundamental discursive strategies of the Orientalist discourse about Christianity, Islam and Muslim barbarism, but also utilized the key tropes of the colonialist narrative that was already in circulation. By examining texts written during that period by officials, politicians, ambassadors, relief workers and missionaries, as well as the ctivities of Near East Relief and League of Nations, the lecture examines how their discourses were entrenched in the nineteenth-century imperial politics.

Currently Meyda Yegenoglu is a visiting professor at Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at Duke University. She is also a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Advanced Social Research at Tampere University since 2016. She is the author of Colonial Fantasies; Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism (Cambridge University Press,1998) and Islam, Migrancy and Hospitality in Europe (Palgrave-Macmillan 2012).

She taught at the Middle East Technical University and Istanbul Bilgi University between 1994-2016. She has held visiting appointments at Columbia University, Oberlin College, Rutgers University, New York University, University of Vienna and Oxford University.

She has numerous essays published  on postcolonialism, orientalism, Islam, secularism and religion, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, feminism, hospitality, European identity, globalization and migrancy in various journals and edited volumes such as Feminist Postcolonial Theory; Postcolonialism, Feminism and Religious Discourse; Nineteenth Centruy Literature Criticism; Philosophy and Social Criticism; Postmodern Culture; Race and Ethnic Relations; Culture and Religion; Inscriptions; Religion and Gender; Handbook of Contemporary Social and Political Theory; State, Religion and Secularization; Feminism and Hospitality.

Event Sponsor: 
Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies
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