By Barlow Der Mugrdechian
Armenian Studies Program Director Prof. Barlow Der Mugrdechian has appointed Dr. Ari Şekeryan as the 16th Henry S. Khanzadian Kazan Visiting Professor for the Spring 2020 semester at Fresno State.
Students have enrolled in a three-unit course, “Armenians in the Ottoman Empire after the Genocide,” which is being taught by Şekeryan this Spring 2020 semester. The course surveys the aftermath of the Genocide in the Ottoman Empire and analyzes the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey after the First World War.
Şekeryan also planned to give three public lectures in the Spring semester, under the general theme of the Armistice years. Based on a collection of Armenian and Ottoman Turkish press, the lectures provide new research on a neglected period in the history of the late Ottoman Empire and Ottoman Armenians.
The first lecture on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, was entitled “An Untold Story of Survival: the Armenian Community in Istanbul During the Armistice Years (1918-1923).” Dr. Şekeryan presented an overview of the political and social developments that happened in the Ottoman Empire during the Armistice period and explored how the Armenian community organized itself while facing political turmoil.
Dr. Şekeryan graduated from the Department of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford, defending his dissertation titled, “The Armenians in the Ottoman Empire after the First World War (1918-1923).” In the 2018-2019 academic year, Dr. Şekeryan was an Honorary Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Institute for Research in the Humanities. Şekeryan was a Visiting Lecturer in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Yerevan State University (summer of 2018) and a Research Assistant in the Department of Sociology at the University of Oxford in 2016.
Şekeryan’s interest in the Armenian Studies field began growing while he was working at the Istanbul-based Aras Publishing House. Teaching Armenian history is prohibited in the Armenian schools in Istanbul. There were Armenian literature classes offered, but the content was limited due to the strict regulations. It was at Aras that Şekeryan became more interested in Armenian literature and history, and then started to read works from famed Armenian authors.
At the same time, he decided to pursue a Master’s degree at Boğaziçi University, where he had the chance to study the Late Ottoman period and the minorities in the Ottoman Empire. These two institutions, Aras Publishing and Boğaziçi University, had a great impact on his intellectual development.
When Şekeryan was visiting the Bayazid State Library, a librarian, after seeing Şekeryan’s name on request forms, brought him several volumes of Armenian newspapers and asked him to help them in cataloging. No one knew Armenian among the library staff, and he felt obligated to help them. These were the volumes of Zhamanag daily in 1918 and 1919.
Şekeryan helped the library staff in cataloging these volumes, and afterward, he visited the library twice a week to read the news items, articles, and editorials. He was surprised when he realized the significant gap that exists in Armenian historiography regarding the Armistice years (1918-1923). Rather than focusing on diplomatic documents, which are not great sources to analyze the inner dynamics of communities, he focused on the Ottoman Turkish and Armenian dailies to track the political and social developments and, most importantly, the community’s reactions among leaders as well as members.
Şekeryan’s Ph.D. dissertation, “The Armenians in the Ottoman Empire after First World War (1918-1923),” analyzes the transformation of the Ottoman Armenian political stance and the impacts of social and political developments of the period on the post-genocide Armenian community by examining the Ottoman Turkish and Armenian press as well as the Ottoman archives.
Şekeryan is currently working on two projects. One is a book, An Untold Story of Survival, which is a significant revision of his Ph.D. dissertation and secondly, he is writing an article about the story of Armenian orphans in Corfu, who were transferred from Istanbul in 1923 following the defeat of the Greek forces by the Turkish Nationalists.
Şekeryan had never been to Fresno but has great enjoyed meeting and speaking with the Armenian community in Fresno.