The denial of Armenian massacre has created a milieu of secrecy and silence among the inheritors of victims and perpetrators alike, establishing the ‘unspeakable as heritage’. Despite the organized forgetting, this secrecy is being unravelled and disentangled in affective embodied encounters in potentially errant and ambiguous ways. To address this productive-affective dimension, Yeğenoğlu will examine a survivor story and the new milieu created by the affective encounter between an Armenian grandmother, who survived her abduction during the forced deportation of Armenians and has lived her life as a Muslim with a Turkish name, keeping her Armenian-Christian heritage secret for many years, revealing this secret to her granddaughter only at a very old age. Fethiye Çetin, the granddaughter, now a prominent human rights lawyer in Turkey, wrote a memoir describing the encounter with her grandmother. Interpreting this memoir, Yeğenoğlu suggests that affect, such as the one shared by Fethiye Çetin and her grandmother, ought not to be modeled according to a stimulus-response schema or the dichotomy of activity and passivity, but rather should be seen as located in the in-between or in the space of relation. Affective encounters move from the past energizing the present, are creative elements, and enable new and unforeseen milieus and mediations. Given that the deeds of the past refuse to remain buried in a climate of secrecy, the medium of innumerable instances of affective encounters allows for the emergence of new incidents, different re-enactments of the past, and perhaps new identities.
Meyda Yeğenoğlu is visiting professor at Duke University’s Programme in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. She is the author of Colonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism (1998) and Islam, Migrancy, and Hospitality in Europe (2012). She is currently working on a book manuscript on the Armenian issue from a Derridean perspective, provisionally entitled Mourning for Armenians: Testimony, Secrecy, and Islamization. Her work crosses disciplinary boundaries and brings together different strands of thought, such as deconstruction, psychoanalysis and postcolonial theory. She has published many articles on postcolonialism, orientalism, Islam, secularism and religion, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, Europe/European identity, globalization, and migrancy.