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Territorializing Armenians: geo-texts, and political imaginaries in French-occupied Cilicia, 1919-1922

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This article examines the petitions, letters, opinion pieces and scholarly works that Armenian intellectuals generated to convince French decision-makers to carve an Armenian nation-state out of Cilicia (present-day southern Turkey). This colonial encounter took place within the process by which European powers dismembered the defeated Ottoman state following the First World War. These "geo-texts"--textual representations of territory and population--were strategic attempts at adjusting the parameters of French imperialism, and thus tapped into French notions of history and ethnology to make a case for an Armenian state. First, I show how Armenians adopted and inflected French epistemologies to depict their ancient homeland. Then, I trace the shift from a representation based on historical commonalities between the Armenians and French to one that stressed the ethnological specificities of Armenian nation and territory. Finally, I argue that the static notions of territory, text and population that lobbyists produced continue to fuel scholarly debate over the confessional and ethnic make-up of Cilicia. This study on "geo-texts" provides insights into how, at a certain historical moment, differences and similarities among people, both within a society and between societies, are established in text.
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Keywords: Armenian lobbyists; Ottoman Empire; Statistics; Territory; Text

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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