Underground Traces: Violence, Ruins, and the Politics of History in Turkey


ACLS Fellowship Program


Promise Armenian Institute


How might we read histories of violence through abandoned churches or gold coins hidden beneath the earth? “Underground Traces” engages the enduring questions of violence and memory through examining how the past is embedded in the present and inscribed onto a landscape of ruins in the region of Van in southeastern Turkey. Through reading together the histories and contemporary worlds of Kurdish, Armenian, and Turkish communities, which are often positioned as oppositional, this project deconstructs naturalized ways of seeing these communities as separate and instead reconstructs their pasts and presents as an interconnected story told through the material world. “Underground Traces” details cycles of state violence against minority communities and landscapes to demonstrate how the histories and contemporary experiences of the Armenian, Kurdish, and Turkish communities are intimately intertwined. By tracing the afterlives of ruined medieval Armenian churches left abandoned after the Genocide of 1915, the project illustrates how the imbricated pasts and presents of state violence are inscribed onto the physical landscape and how the material world shapes and is shaped by local memory.