26 April, noon: The Armenians of Aintab: The Economics of Genocide in an Ottoman Province

–Monday, April 26, at noonDr. Űmit Kurt (Polonsky Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and Australian Research Council Fellow), in conversation with Dr. Michael Provence (Department of History, U.C. San Diego)

The Armenians of Aintab: The Economics of Genocide in an Ottoman Province”

(Book Talk and Conversation)Abstract: One cornerstone of the wartime campaign against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was the confiscation of their properties and wealth, which were subsequently transferred to Muslim elites and used in reshaping the domestic economy as well as covering wartime expenses. These were among the radical practices of the CUP (Committee of Union and Progress) regime aimed at nationalizing the economy. First, many businesses and properties were transferred to state institutions. Second, a lesser but substantial number of firms were transferred to “reliable” Muslim individuals and social institutions. More significant than the transfers themselves was the fact that these extraordinary measures were based on a set of laws, regulations, rules, and decrees that created a legal basis for a more systematic campaign against the movable and immovable properties of Armenians. In this capital transfer, we see that genocide also created the circumstances to enable “the complete fulfilment of the established policy of ethnic domination through expropriation.” Economic dispossession was far from a process carried out “from above” by means of the simple execution of CUP orders. If the process of the economic exclusion of Armenians is to be described fully, a regional historical analysis is necessary. This paper will explore how the process of economic destruction directed at the Armenians of Aintab—present-day Gaziantep, thirty-five miles west of the Euphrates and twenty-eight miles north of today’s Turkish-Syrian border—was implemented. Shifting focus from state to society, thereby prioritizing the local roots of a mass violence in the making, this work will highlight the crucial role played by local elites and provincial notables, actors who prospered in the new social stratum through the acquisition of Armenian property and wealth. Bios: Dr. Ümit Kurt is a historian of the late Ottoman Empire with a particular focus on the transformations of the imperial structures and their role in constituting the republican regime. Moreover, his research and teaching are grounded on theories of state and class, social identity and ethnicity. He received his MA from Sabancı University in 2008 and PhD from Clark University in 2016. Since then, he has held a number of postdoctoral positions in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and the Armenian Studies Program at California State University, Fresno. Currently, He is a research Fellow at Polonsky Academy in the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and teaches in the department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of Antep 1915: Genocide and Perpetrators (2018), co-author of The Spirit of the Laws: The Plunder of Wealth in the Armenian Genocide (2015) and editor of Armenians and Kurds in Late Ottoman Empire (2020). His forthcoming book, The Armenians of Aintab: The Economics of Genocide in an Ottoman Province, will be published in April 2021 by Harvard University Press. Ümit Kurt is the winner of the 2021 Discovery Early Career Research Award given by Australian Research Council. He is also Vice Executive Secretary of International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS).Dr. Michael Provence teaches modern Middle East history, focusing on the 20th century Arab East. He received the Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2001. During 2017-2018, he was Chercheur Résident (Research Fellow in Residence), Institut d’Etudes Avancées de Nantes, France.  In 2010-11 and 2014 Provence was an Alexander von Humboldt fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin, Germany. He is the author of two books and many articles. The books are The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism (2005), also translated and widely reviewed in Arabic as al-Thawra al-Suriyya al-Wataniyya, and The Last Ottoman Generation and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2017), selected a Choice Outstanding Academic Title in 2018.