Islands of Unity: Armenian travellers and dwellers in Twenty-First-Century Turkey

Green, S. (Opponent), Yael Navaro (Opponent)

Activity: Examination typesOpponent of doctoral dissertation


This PhD thesis studies regimes and everyday practices of both short- and long-distance mobility that produce physical and cultural distances among Armenians in and en route to Turkey. It is concerned with portraying how people, things, and ideas are re-made as they travel (Tsing 2010: 347) and works towards a collage of mobility in which heterogeneous narratives present ‘a greater picture’ of place-making (Clifford 1997: 12). This is how it triggers discussions on the co-constitution of particular antagonisms of space and affiliation, and invites readers to a new perspective of comprehending ‘dwelling’ with ‘travelling’, ‘insides’ with ‘outsides’, ‘natives’ with ‘foreigners’, and state-imposed definitions of unity with personal accounts of unity (and diversity).

The thesis deals with the physical and imagined components of unity through a metaphor of islands, which guides the reader through the ethnographic material collected during multi-sited research conducted in Turkey, in Armenia, and on the roads that connect these two neighbouring countries. The metaphor does not define distinct and compartmentalized zones of culture, history, and economy; instead, it accounts for ongoing connection and movement despite physical and imagined barriers in/between the two countries. However, the metaphor is not devoid of physical substance; an entire country, a migrant enclave, a city block, and a literal island off Istanbul constitute its more tangible components.
The thesis gives a vivid description of the human geography of dwelling in
and travelling to Turkey. Inspired by Green's work on the Greek-Albanian
border (2005), it locates its Armenian protagonists as ‘people who take
mobility for granted’ and provides the historical, political, and physical
conditions behind this sentiment. In doing so, it portrays the making of a
“state-crafted” epistemological regime (see Navaro-Yashin 2012), in which an
Armenian minority is invented along with a Turkish majority (al-Rustom
2015: 413). It necessarily tackles the making of contemporary Turks as much
as Armenians.
Period5 Mar 2019
ExamineeSalim Aykut Öztürk
Examination held atUniversity College London
Degree of RecognitionInternational