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.
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
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.