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Memorialization as Conflict Transformation mechanism

Does creating a strucutre to remember hero, those lost or a tragedy really help?

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The Armneian Genocide Museum [of America]

  • Sep 24, 2010
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Located at 1336 G Street NW, Washington, D.C, is said to be open in 2011. This museum objective is to educated those about the loss of life in Armenian culture in the early 20th century and the "failure" of the international community to respond. This concept was brought up in one of my classes and it really made me think about the idea of memorialization and "chosen traumas", idea discussed by a USIP report and Vamik Volkan. The basic concepts are that each group selects a chosen trauma, or event of their past that links them and can be used countless times in the future as a defense for their mis-treatment or struggle. The thing about a chosen trauma, is that it is perceived as a trauma by the group selecting it, but it might not be so. For instance, teh Holocaust is the chosen trauma of teh Jewish culture and many recognize it as so; however, for the Armenians there is still some debate. The Armenians clearly view the acts of the Turkish government towards them in 1915 as unforgivable and classify it as genocide, which is why there is more than 135 memorials in 25 countires and now this museum coming to D.C. But the Turks do not see it as such. And even the American government at the time failed to see the magnitude. So this controversy plays out not only in coming to a bottom line, but also in the memorialization of an event.The Armenians who want to never forget or be put on the back burner again are asking for such institutions, but the Turks protest as such, expecailly when such language as genocide is displayed in the name.
So really it is argued that memorialization is part of the healing process to move on, but does it do more harm than good. IN this conflict that seems to be never ending for Armenians and Turks, talks have not ben amde about an apology or any compensation, etc, because there has been no steps of transformation or econciliation. The Armeninas continue to drive home their point of genocide and refuse to back down or acknowledge their actions previous to said trauma, while the Turks refuse to communicate while such heavy language is being good. In essence then this museum is not just a "healing" institution for Armenians, but also has the potential to reheat the tensions and add fuel to the fire, providing another outlet for both sides to bring up the past.

I find it ineteresting that something that is meant to be used to transform conflict can also have such negative effects.
The Armneian Genocide Museum [of America]

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November 12, 2010
your post, although well-intentioned, is ill-informed. As a graduate of American University (your alma mater!) Peace and Conflict Resolution degree program, please allow me to highlight some shortcomings you might want to overcome. 1) the museum is not meant to "memorialize" the genocide; It is meant to speak to the voluminous efforts of the United States, at the time of the Genocide, to assist another civilization from being annihilated. It is also a monument and call for tolerance; where you remember the depths of violence there you push for peace. These topics should be of special interest to Search For Common Ground, no? 2) the Armenian Genocide was not contested by the United States at the time of the genocide: in fact, as stated above, and as most scholars, books and historians will inform you, the United States was first and foremost in providing aid, shelter, and recognition to the "Starving Armenians." In fact, the Armenian Genocide was the first example of US Foreign Policy being based in the public outcry for international assistance to an unconnected population. 3) As you will find before graduation from your program at American University, part of the "healing" process for trauma, especially national trauma, is recognition: denial has an adverse effect on healing: it actually reopens the wound every time. what do you suggest for the "healing" process? 4) it would help you in your analysis to look up Kemal Ataturks' first order of business upon establishing the modern day state of Turkey: his first course of action was to hunt down the three leaders of the Ottoman Empire who perpetuated the genocide (called "a heinous crime" by Ataturk himself) and bring them to justice. You can find this information with any basic google search. 5) right now, because of Turkey's current day policies toward its minority citizens, especially the Armenians, 50,000 Armenians in Turkey (it was 500,000 just 10 years ago) are suffering under political and public pressure: look up the fate of Hrant Dink, an Armenian journalist in Turkey who dared mention The Armenian Genocide. That is the purpose of the Armenian Genocide Museum, Laura: it is to give a voice to a population and moment in history that has been robbed of its value. I'm afraid the search for recognition should be something that is obvious to a scholar, a member of the SFCG community, and someone who posts on Lunch: why else would you post your thoughts if you didn't want them to be acknowledged? How can you expect a nation to move on when the hurt is "questioned" (post 1989) and denied? just a friendly FYI-perhaps spell check might be helpful? :)
November 12, 2010
Thank you for your comments, I found them very educational and considering Lunch is meant for discussion I welcome any more. I do not claim to be an expert on the Armenian genocide; I only meant to continue a discussion that I had in class about the idea of memorialization and chosen traumas. I do not deny that the museum is a healing tool for the Armenians and I fully accept their need as a people and nation to be acknowledge in their suffering in order to move on. However, I believe the fact that this museum is not the first of its kind speaks to more than a healing process. The Armenian and Genocide Museum and Memorial Inc have been building memorials and museums for ten years now, all over the world, indeed for recognition, but these buildings also act as places were local Armenian populations can go and reflect and educate future generations. I also would like to address the United States role during the time of the genocide. Although, the U.S. helped in terms of humanitarian aid, no strong actions were taken against the perpetrators to sanction their brutal policies. UN Human Rights Council describes the United States stance at the time of the genocide as neutral. And even to this day the United States as a whole has not acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. Instead, it is left up to individually states, which is why having the museum built here in D.C. (the nation's capital) is stirring some controversy. how did i do with my spelling that time? =)
About the reviewer
Laura ()
Ranked #310
My name is Laura, I am currently living in D.C. and attend American University. I am originally from Staten Island, NY. I am majoring in International Relations with a focus in Peace and Conflict Resolution. … more
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