Armenian Studies Program Coordinator Prof. Barlow Der Mugrdechian announced that Dr. Ümit Kurt has been appointed as the 15th Henry S. Khanzadian Kazan Visiting Professor in Armenian Studies at Fresno State for the Fall 2018 semester. The Kazan Visiting Professorship was established through a generous endowment established by Henry S. Khanzadian Kazan.

Dr. Ümit Kurt will give his second public lecture of a three-part series

All of the public lectures are free and open to the public.

While there is an extensive body of literature addressing the Armenian Genocide, significant gaps persist. The events and processes of the genocide have been unearthed and examined, but genocide is not a phenomenon set in motion by a force of nature; on the contrary, the systematic destruction of Ottoman Armenians was designed and executed by a cadre of individuals, most of whom are little known today.

In his presentation, Dr. Kurt will recover the stories of two such actors, Mehmet Yasin, and Ali Cenani, in a particular town, Aintab, modern-day Gaziantep, and in the surrounding district, where both were actively involved in the destruction of Armenians. In this destruction, they were supported by the citizenry of the town, who—whether or not they approved of the actions these two operatives—did not criticize them and did profit from their activities.

Biographies of a genocide’s local leaders—the simple, objective features of their backgrounds and careers and their relationship with their communities—can illustrate the social processes, institutional cultures, and power relations that undergirded the violence. This lecture hopes to do this by highlighting the human element: the actors, their motives, and their actions, which ultimately bore responsibility for the catastrophic loss of life.

The lecture will focus on the life stories of these two leading players—on their backgrounds, deeds, and involvement in the 1915 Armenian deportation and genocide, as well as their careers in post-genocide Turkey.

Upcoming lecture

  •  “The Curious Case of Ahmed Necmeddin Bey: A Look into the Sociopolitical Climate in Aintab on the Eve of 1915.”

Previous lecture

  • “A Rescuer, an Enigma, and a Génocidaire: Cemal Pasha” 

Kurt has written extensively on confiscation of Armenian properties, wealth transfer, local elites, the Armenian Genocide, mass violence, inter-ethnic strife, local historiography, early modern Turkish nationalism, and the Aintab Armenians.

“Dr. Kurt brings with him a lot of experience in teaching about genocides in general, but also specifically on the Armenian Genocide,” said Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Armenian Studies Program Coordinator. “His doctoral research was on the Armenian Genocide, so he is familiar with primary and secondary sources. He is also a graduate of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, one of the premier programs in the country.”

Kurt will be teaching a three-unit course in the Fall Semester, “The Armenian Genocide in Comparative Perspective.” This course is a comparative study of mass killings in the twentieth century, especially the Armenian Genocide. Many questions remain about why these egregious acts occurred. The course will analyze mass killings and the forces that explain them. Three cases of genocide will be analyzed and compared 1) the Armenian Genocide of 1915, 2) the Holocaust 3) the Rwandan genocide. The course concludes with how one can best detect and prevent future Genocides.

“Dr. Kurt can share his passion for teaching about the concept of mass violence and genocide and what can be done to prevent similar events in the future. He communicates very well and I think students at Fresno State will have the opportunity to interact with him and together learn more about genocide,” said Der Mugrdechian.

Dr. Ümit Kurt received his Ph.D. from the Department of History at Clark University in 2016. He received his M.A. degree in European Studies from Sabancı University in 2008 and an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Middle East Technical University in 2006. He taught in the Faculty of Arts and Science in Sabancı University, from 2012 to 2014. He is currently working as a Polonsky Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

Kurt is the author of “The Great, Hopeless Turkish Race: Fundamentals of Turkish Nationalism in the Turkish Homeland, 1911-1916” (Istanbul: İletişim Publishing House, 2012) and is the editor of “Revolt and Destruction: Construction of the State from Ottoman Empire to Turkish Republic and Collective Violence”(Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Publishing House, 2015) and “History and Historians in Turkey: Concepts and Practices” (Ankara: Heretik, 2018). He is also the author, with Taner Akçam, of “The Spirit of the Laws: The Plunder of Wealth in the Armenian Genocide”(New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015).

For more information about the public lectures, please contact the Armenian Studies Program at 278-2669, visit our website at www.fresnostate.edu/armenianstudies or visit our Facebook page at @ArmenianStudiesFresnoState.