New DECRA to examine mass violence of Ottoman Empire

Sunday, 15 November 2020

An historian of the modern Middle East, with a research focus on the collapse of the Ottoman Empire will join the Centre for the Study of Violence under a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA).

Umit Kurt

Dr Ümit Kurt comes to the University of Newcastle from the the Polonsky Academy at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. He specialises in the late Ottoman socio-economic history, Armenian genocide, mass/collective violence and interethnic conflicts. His broader training also includes the comparative empires, population movements, history of the Ottoman urban and local elites, wealth transfer and nationalism.

Ümit was awarded $369,424 for his DECRA project Global Patterns of Mass Violence: Ottoman Borderlands in Context, 1890-1920.

The project examines the transformative dimensions of mass violence committed against the minorities of the Ottoman Empire – Armenians, Assyrians, Yazidis, and Greeks – and the historical impact and consequences of the Empire’s violent history on the Balkans and the Levant (Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon).

“In particular, it highlights the crucial role played by international, inter-state, central, and regional actors, who undertook critical roles in the national and community-building process of the Empire, resulting in the foundation of the new Turkish Republic (1923).” Ümit said. “It will rethink the classical historical narrative about the emergence of the post-Ottoman Middle East, and seek to understand the wider, global dimensions of mass violence.”

Ümit’s broader research focuses on the elite-making processes that have been largely absent from historical writings on the Middle East. By situating the physical and material destruction of Armenians within context of the creation/construction of Turkish-Muslim urban elite in Aintab, modern day Gaziantep, his work provides a comparative case for the elite formation and its social repercussions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

His work shows that within the crucible of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, World War I, and the advent of late European colonialism, a discrete urban bourgeoisie elite/class took shape.

He says: “It was defined not just by the wealth, professions, possessions, or the levels of education of its members, but also by the way they acquire this wealth and status which was at the expense of Armenian Christians.”

Director of the Centre for the Study of Violence, Professor Philip Dwyer says Ümit’s work contributes to the global historiographies of state and nation formation, elite and bourgeoisie making processes, economic nationalization, and collective violence.

“We are thrilled to have Ümit join us in Newcastle. He comes to us with a strong research track record, having been a visiting fellow at Harvard, and his forthcoming book, The Armenians of Aintab, will be published by Harvard very soon.”

“Ümit will build on Associate Professor Hans-Lukas Kieser’s expertise in the Armenian genocide to make The Centre for the Study of Violence one of, if not the strongest, concentration of researchers in the country in Ottoman/Turkish history.”

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