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On Nested Memories of Removal: From the Literary Afterlives of the 1915 Aghed to the Literary Afterlives of the 1948 Nakba
What happens when we recognize that inheritors of traumatic cultural memory can also be witnesses to succeeding events of collective violence? More specifically, how does the field of contemporary cultural memory studies develop tools to make meaning of the narrativization of those acts of witnessing when such acts occur in context of the displacement of an already diasporic community? In this presentation, I proffer the rubric of what I call “nested memory” by analyzing portrayals in Armenian American and Palestinian American literary texts of this phenomenon of living through the recursivity of collective trauma. More broadly, my larger project on nested memory takes up study of a triangulation of critical and creative engagement with histories of removals, the third point of comparison being Indigenous North American literature. Through a contrapuntal approach for literary analysis informed by my bridging of Ottoman, Middle East, and Armenian studies with discourses in Indigenous, settler colonial, and American studies, I illuminate depictions of inherited memories of removal—a particular kind of forced migration—that are nested into collective memories of succeeding experiences of upheaval and displacement. For this presentation, I similarly work in this manner of literary analysis grounded in juxtaposition and build theoretical nuance for the study of removal memory as it is portrayed as reactivated in instances of intergenerational internal and external displacement. In doing so, I make legible rather than erase the tensions that are raised when we bring together the afterlives of structural violence in different, non-Eurocentric geopolitical sites. At the same time, by bringing in conversation seemingly disparate histories of cultural traumas experienced by Middle Eastern/SWANA communities, I revisit inherited genealogies of trauma and memory studies and ask how such frameworks need to be nuanced to best attend to geopolitical conditions and regions they were not developed in reference to. My methodology of tracing survivals and survivals of traces in terms of aesthetic representations of memory work, as well as attending practices of relating different literary canons and bodies of critical discourse, generates a worlding of Armenian Studies as a thought field. Derived from a globalized view aimed at unearthing understudied connections and making such links, my project on nested memory ultimately contributes to the overlapping but also distinct methodological aims for the study of the migration of memory, memory and migration, and the memory of migration.
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