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ASP Lecture | Biopolitics and Life-Writing among Ottoman Armenians: The Sacred Life of Zabel Yesayan

Maral Aktokmakyan, 2017-2018 Manoogian Post-doctoral Fellow
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
4:00-5:30 PM
Room 110 Weiser Hall Map
The Cilician massacres in 1909 were a moment in the newly emerging political landscape that affected not only the lives of Armenians in the region, but the entire Armenian community in the Ottoman state. This talk explores the (bio) political meaning of the dehumanization of Armenians with its focus on the personal experiences of the Ottoman Armenian writer and activist, Zabel Yesayan. If biopolitics can be defined as the management of lives by new power mechanisms that deprive people of human agency, then how are we to understand the category of the biopoliticized life? Can a ‘biopoliticized life’ speak for itself, for its reduction to a state of bodily existence, for its own death?

In relation to the loss of one’s political and everyday life, this talk concentrates on the paradox of the making of the modern biopoliticized subject, which materializes in an alternative and radical form of life-writing. Emphasizing the ways one engages with life-writing, which Dr. Aktokmakyan calls ‘auto-bio-thanato-graphy,’ the talk examines the ‘non-sovereign’ quality in Yesayan’s "Among the Ruins" to reframe a theory of agency and body politics, as well as the notion of the political in the Western Armenian literature.

Maral Aktokmakyan earned her PhD in Western Languages and Literature from Boğaziçi University in 2016. She specializes in modern Western Armenian literature with her Master’s Thesis on female literary styles and discourses in the works of Serpouhi Dussap and Charlotte Brontë. She is currently working on the literary representations of biopolitical reductions with a particular emphasis on the Ottoman Armenians before and after the Genocide. Her dissertation, entitled "If This is Life: Rethinking the Modern Subject through the Aporia of Biopolitics," examines the ways in which biopoliticized lives in the works of Zabel Yesayan and Hagop Mntzuri, William Faulkner and Joseph Conrad are represented and problematized.

Photo caption: Ottoman Armenians celebrate the restoration of constitution in 1908, Merzifon- in Les Armeniens 1917-1939 La Quete d’un Refuge (The Armenians, 1917-1939 In Search of Refuge). By Michel Paboudjian.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: International, Literature, Middle East Studies, Multicultural, Politics
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Armenian Studies Program, Comparative Literature, International Institute