A groundbreaking and profoundly moving exploration of the Armenian genocide, told through the traces left in the memories and on the bodies of its women survivors.
Foremost among the images of the Armenian Genocide is the specter of tattooed Islamized Armenian women. Blue tribal tattoos that covered face and body signified assimilation into Muslim Bedouin and Kurdish households. Among Armenians, the tattooed survivor was seen as a living ethnomartyr or, alternatively, a national stain, and the bodies of women and children figured centrally within the Armenian communal memory and humanitarian imaginary. In Remnants, these tattooed and scar-bearing bodies reveal a larger history, as the lived trauma of genocide is understood through bodies, skin, and—in what remains of those lives a century afterward—bones.
With this book, Elyse Semerdjian offers a feminist reading of the Armenian Genocide. She explores how the Ottoman Armenian communal body was dis-membered, disfigured, and later re-membered by the survivor community. Gathering individual memories and archival fragments, she writes a deeply personal history, and issues a call to break open the archival record in order to embrace affect and memory. Traces of women and children rescued during and after the war are reconstructed to center the quietest voices in the historical record. This daring work embraces physical and archival remnants, the imprinted negatives of once living bodies, as a space of radical possibility within Armenian prosthetic memory and a necessary way to recognize the absence that remains.
About the author
Elyse Semerdjian is the Robert Aram and Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University. She is the author of "Off the Straight Path": Illicit Sex, Law, and Community in Ottoman Aleppo (2008).
"Remnants is a rich cultural history of the Armenian Genocide and a powerful investigation of patriarchal assault on the female body. An original work with broad meaning for all histories of mass violence and genocide, and their traumatic aftermaths."
—Peter Balakian, author of Black Dog of Fate
"Elyse Semerdjian has authored a brilliant book. Remnants is at once powerful, moving, engaging, and convincing. Its turn to bodies and voices, remnants and fragments—away from the traditional archive—restores the stories of those most silenced and forgotten, and shows how gender is pivotal to genocidal thinking. A real tour de force."
—Beth Baron, author of The Orphan Scandal
"Remnants is the book we've all been waiting for—breathtaking plot, methodological novelty without any accompanying conceit, theoretically and factually grounded. Elyse Semerdjian's work will prove regenerative in the best possible way."
—Lerna Ekmekcioglu, author of Recovering Armenia
"A very ethical book, demonstrating to all of us how one can recover a violent past with professionalism and grace instead of rhetoric and partisanship. Remnants recovers and gives agency to women who were silenced in history."
—Fatma Muge Gocek author of Denial of Violence