The Clash of Turkish and Armenian Narratives

The Clash of Turkish and Armenian Narratives

The debates and tensions that very often characterize the interactions between the Turkish and Armenian peoples do not easily fit into frameworks adopted by studies of international affairs. One problem is that of identifying specific actors: states, diasporas, community-level and international organizations, religious bodies, individuals, broader regional or global players and trends. A second problem is identifying what is at stake: moral, ethical, or religious principles, core hard power interests, legal disputes, economic calculations. The complexity of the case challenges any single approach to analysis but at the same time offers the opportunity for multiple points of view to bring forward meaningful insights. This study uses narratives as a source and as a method.

Narrative moved out of its realm of literature and the arts and began to be applied to the social sciences during the 1970s and 1980s. It provided an alternative to the more rigid theoretical frameworks that reflected natural science methodologies. Accounting for a phenomenon through narrative allows for more personal, more subjective points of view. This is problematic for objective analysis, but can nevertheless prove to be useful for a more comprehensive understanding. In the case of Turkish-Armenian relations, there are no current immediate security threats, no reasonable expectations of hostilities between the two states, much less between dispersed peoples, nor are there any living participants of the most significant episode in Turkish-Armenian relations, namely the Armenian Genocide. Instead, it is the public memory of 1915 in Turkey, in Armenia, and around the world that most deeply informs inter-personal, inter-communal, and inter-state relations regionally and globally. If there is to be any resolution and lasting reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian peoples, it will begin at the level of the narrative.

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