Presentation focuses on ‘Portraits of Unbelonging: Photography, the Ottoman State and Armenians Leaving for America 1896-1908’

Dr. Zeynep Devrim Gürsel stands in front of a wall of faded photographs

Dr. Zeynep Devrim Gürsel, associate professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, will give a presentation on “Portraits of Unbelonging: Photography, the Ottoman State and Armenians Leaving for America 1896-1908” at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, November 12 on Zoom

“Portraits of Unbelonging” investigates the history of Armenian emigration from the Ottoman empire to the United States from the politically fraught and often violent 1890s to the end of Abdülhamid II’s reign in 1909. According to Gürsel, between 1896 and 1909, Ottoman Armenian subjects could emigrate legally only if they renounced their nationality and promised never to return to the empire. Having their photograph taken was a crucial step in the process. These photos recorded their severance from Ottoman nationality and became one of the first uses of photography to police borders anywhere in the world.

Photograph of the Shekoyan family from Bitlis taken in 1907. Source: Prime Minister’s Ottoman State Archives.
Photograph of the Shekoyan family from Bitlis taken in 1907. Source: Prime Minister’s Ottoman State Archives.

Gürsel’s “Portraits of Unbelonging” presentation aims to link an Ottoman Armenian past to an American future to create a double-sided migration history. She follows emigrant families’ stories over a century through official documents, ship manifests, and family photo albums. This involves traveling around the United States to meet with descendants of those photographed, including several Fresno families, and hear what became of the families first encountered in the Ottoman archives.

Dr. Gürsel is a media anthropologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. She is the author of “Image Brokers: Visualizing World News in the Age of Digital Circulation,”  Univ. of California Press, 2016, and the director of the ethnographic film “Coffee Futures,” 2009.

Zoom Registration Link: bit.ly/armenianstudiesgursel

For information about Dr. Laderman’s lecture, please follow Armenian Studies on its Facebook page, @ArmenianStudiesFresnoState or at the Program website.

The presentation is part of the Fall 2020 Lecture Series of the Armenian Studies Program and is supported by the Leon S. Peters Foundation. All Lecture Series events will take place online, and not face-to-face, through the Fall 2020 semester.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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