Conf/Prog - Ottoman Cataclysm: Total War, Genocide and Distant Futures in the Middle East (1915-1917), 28 – 31 October 2015, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Publish Date: Oct 28, 2015

Event Dates: from Oct 28, 2015 12:00 to Oct 31, 2015 12:00

The demise of the Ottoman Empire and its ethnic, religious and social fabric in the 1910s is not only a defining event in the history of the Middle East and Europe and of global history. It is also a period of massive destruction, human suffering, and squandered opportunities for peace.

We hence have proposed the term “cataclysm” to highlight both the destruction and the new beginnings witnessed in this period.

The demise of Ottomanity as the utopia of a non-sectarian and inclusive notion of modern citizenship continues to haunt the societies and political institutions in the Middle East and the Balkans.

This conference discusses current debates on World War I in the Ottoman world and possible impacts of this revisionist historiography on thehistory-writing of wider Europe and the Middle East.

It focuses on domestic mass destruction – the Armenian genocide – as well as on the latter's context and aftermath. 

It presents the state of research on the war government of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP); on the episodes of genocide in Asia Minor and in Syria; on long-termeffects on victims and perpetrators – Armenians, Syriacs, Kurds, Turkey in general, and theKurdish-Alevi- Armenian region of Dersim in particular. It also seeks to ascertain legal and literary perspectives on the new quality of violence. Despite the growing critical literature on the last years of the Ottoman Empire, we still lack a comprehensive historical narrative of this Cataclysm – of which scenes are re-enacted in our days in the same geography.

For the academic team of the project cluster “Ottoman Cataclysm”, 2012–2023: Hans-LukasKieser (Universities of Zurich and Newcastle NSW), Kerem Öktem (University of Graz) and Maurus Reinkowski (University of Basel).


Public lectures and roundtables are open to all. If you are interested to attend the conference panels, please register your interest with Fabienne Meyer.


M.A. Fabienne Meyer:, +41 79 796 36 86 Prof. Dr. Hans-Lukas

Conference language: English


Universität Zürich Zentrum

Rämistrasse 71

8006 Zürich

Room: KOL G-217

(Saturday, 31 October: KO2 F150)

Public Transport:

Tram 10 to ETH/Universitätsspital, Tram 9 to Kantonsschule


Ottoman Cataclysm: Total War, Genocide and Distant Futures in the Middle East (1915-1917)
28 – 31 October 2015, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Wednesday, 28 October

Welcome, 18:15. Prof. Dr. Andreas H. Jucker, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, UZH
Public lecture, subsequent. Donald Bloxham (Edinburgh): Geopolitics, ethnopolitics, mass murder: The Ottoman Cataclysm and western Eurasia's long twentieth century of violence

Thursday, 29 October

Panel 1, 09:00-10:30. The Ottoman World War I and its historiography

Chair: Margaret Anderson (Berkeley)
Discussant: Erik J. Zürcher (Leiden)

  • Mustafa Aksakal (Washington D.C.): New scholarship, new directions
  • Nazan Maksudyan (Istanbul): New approaches of social history
  • Elizabeth Thompson (Charlotteville VA): Arab historiography

Panel 2, 10:50-11:30. Çanakkale 1915. Foundational myths of Young Turks, Kemalists, Australians and neo-Ottomanists

Chair: Philip Dwyer (Newcastle NSW)
Discussant: Elizabeth Thompson (Charlotteville VA)

  • Erol Köroğlu (Istanbul): The triumph of Gallipoli, 1915. Uses and misuses in Turkey
  • Daniel Marc Segesser (Bern): Short input on myths and memories of the Galipoli War in transnational perspective

Panel 3, 13:30-17:30 (with breaks). The Armenian genocide, the Kurds and post-genocide Turkey

Chair: Maurus Reinkowski (Basel)

a. 13:30-14:30 The Caucasian front and the Armenian relocations

  • Peter Holquist (Philadelphia): The impact of Russian strategy and Russian policies on the Caucasus Front
  • Raymond Kévorkian (Paris): La planification des deportation. Nouvelles conclusions

Discussant: Ugur Ü. Üngör (Utrecht)

b. 15:00-16:00 The anti-Armenian policy in the eastern and central provinces

  • Mehmet Polatel (Istanbul): Robbing and murdering Christians. Local actors, jihad and the state in the eastern provinces
  • Hilmar Kaiser (Phnom Penh): Between massacre and resistance: Officers, bureaucrats and Muslim notables in Angora province during the extermination of Armenians

Discussant: Yuval Ben-Bassat (Haifa)

c. 16:30-17:30 From genocide to "post-genocide"

  • Namık Kemal Dinç (Istanbul) (in Turkish, paper transl. in English): Sözlü tarihe göre Diyarbakır'da soykırımın toplumsal örgütlenmesinde aktörler/ Kurdish responsibility and oral history
  • Talin Suciyan (Munich): Another historiography for Turkey: Can the survivor speak?

Discussant: Kerem Öktem (Graz)

Roundtable 1, Public Debate, 18:15. The Armenian genocide: New debates on Turkey, Germany, the Shoah, and the post-Ottoman Middle East

Chair: Dominik J. Schaller (Zürich)

With Hülya Adak (Istanbul), Margaret Anderson (Berkeley); Donald Bloxham (Edinburgh); Stefan Ihrig (Jerusalem); Hans-Lukas Kieser (Zürich)

Friday, 30 October

Panel 4, 09:30-11.00. How to deal with crimes against humanity?

Chair: Peter Holquist (Philadelphia)

Discussants: Donald Bloxham (Edinburgh), Raymond Kévorkian (Paris)

  • Daniel Marc Segesser (Bern): “Delendum est Imperium Ottomanorum“: War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and the end of the Ottoman Empire
  • Hülya Adak (Istanbul): Denial as a contemporary reaction to the Great Crime
  • Valentina Calzolari (Geneva): Armenian literary responses to Metz Yeghern

Panel 5, 11:30-13:00. Famine in Greater Syria, precarity in Palestine, “Israel's first foundation”

Chair: Mustafa Aksakal (Washington D.C.)

Discussant: Maurus Reinkowski (Basel)

  • Yuval Ben Bassat (Haifa): Enciphered Ottoman wartime correspondence on Palestine: A challenge to the common national narratives?
  • Dotan Halevy (New York): A tale of two (evacuated) cities: Gaza and Jaffa in March 1917
  • Salim Tamari (Ramallah): The Ottoman administration in Syria and the Arab intelligentsia (1915-1917)

Panel 6, 14:30-16:45 (with short break). Engaged in a rightist revolution? Political biographies and visions of the future among members of the Committee Union and Progress

Chair: Kerem Öktem (Graz)

Discussant: Mustafa Aksakal (Washington D.C.)

  • Ozan Ozavcı (Paris): The Sense of Cataclysm: Mehmed Djavid Bey and an Emotional History of Late Ottoman Empire
  • Uğur Ü. Üngör (Amsterdam): Şükrü Kaya
  • Hans-Lukas Kieser (Zürich): Talat Pasha and Germany
  • Erik J. Zürcher (Leiden): The parallel lifes of Kazim Ozalp, Şükrü Kaya and Abdulhalik Renda

Roundtable 2, Public Debate, 17:15. World War I and the end of the Ottomans. Book discussion

Chair: Nada Boškovska (Zürich)

With Margaret L. Anderson (Berkeley); Erik J. Zürcher (Leiden); Mustafa Aksakal (Washington D.C.); Kerem Öktem (Graz, editor), Maurus Reinkowski (Basel, editor)

Saturday, 31 October

Panel 7, 09:30-11:30. An island of resistance? Dersim between the Armenian genocide and the Tertele of 1937-38

Chair and discussant: Uğur Ü. Üngör (Amsterdam)

  • Kazım and Nezahat Gündoğan (Istanbul): Screening of the documentary film Manastırın Çocukları / Children of the Monastery (75 min.)

Roundtable 3, Public Debate, 12:30-14:00. Turkey in the shadow of 1915: A year of contested remembering

Chair: Kerem Öktem (Graz)

With Ayşe Gül Altınay (Istanbul); Seyhan Bayraktar (San Francisco); Sossie Kasbarian (Lancaster)

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