A lecture by Ruken Sengul (MESA Global Academy Fellow), Moderated by Laurie Brand (USC), with discussants Asli Bali (Yale), Sherene Razack (UCLA), and Anoush Suni (Northwestern)
Tuesday, November 15, 2022
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM (Pacific Time)
This talk builds upon recent social and cultural histories of the destruction of Armenians in the late Ottoman Eastern borderlands to develop a political anthropology of sexual violence. Understanding any social contract as sexually constitutive, I first discuss the sexed modus vivendi of the ethno-religiously mixed populations in this trans-imperial borderland as reflected in customary mechanisms of relatedness and difference, association and conflict. I then trace how changing structures of sovereignty and identity forged through the nineteenth-century processes of colonization, war, and socio-cultural modernization rendered the bodies of Armenian men and women the site of "sexterian" (Mikdashi 2022) (re)production. Tracing the mutually implicated (b)orders of sovereignty, sex and sect is primarily an attempt to tease out the political nature of intimate violence. It reveals, I suggest, the epistemological limits of approaches—such as the criminal model of genocide— that regard sexual violence against the Armenians as a function of culture or a problem of law and order.
Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, USC Department of Middle East Studies, USC Institute of Armenian Studies, 2022 MESA Global Academy