Genocide, diasporic identity and activism: the narratives, identity and activisim of Armenian-Australians and Turkish-Australians regarding the recognition of the deaths of Armenians during First World War as genocide

Francois Wolvaardt

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This dissertation focuses on how political recognition of the Armenian genocide constructs and reflects the diasporic identities of Armenian-Australians and Turkish-Australians. For Armenians in the diaspora, commemoration of the genocide and campaigning for genocide recognition is an important marker of identity. For the Turkish government, the Armenian genocide allegations accuse the Ottoman government of an act which is viewed normatively as the ultimate crime against humanity and therefore undermines the foundation of the Turkish republic. Issues of identity are at stake for both groups. This thesis focuses on the relevance of political recognition of the Armenian genocide and the Armenian allegations for Armenian-Australians and Turkish-Australians. The central research question is: How and why have the Armenian and Turkish diasporas in Australia participated in the argument surrounding the recognition of Armenian deaths by the Ottoman government during World War I as genocide?

The research argues that diasporic groups relate differently to the same hostland based on how they view their diasporic identity and narratives within that identity. It is demonstrated that remembrance of the genocide and fight for genocide recognition is central to the diasporic identity of Armenian-Australians as it gives them an understanding of their dispersion from Armenia and life in Australia. Remembrance of the genocide is actively mobilised by Armenian diasporic institutions and the family to develop the Armenian diasporic identity in second generation Armenian-Australians. Dispersion from Armenia or Armenian communities in the Middle-East and the prioritisation of maintaining the Armenian diasporic identity in Australia impacts on the sense of belonging of Armenian-Australians to Australia. Living in Australia threatens the Armenian diasporic identity with integration into the broader society, which is resisted due to the importance of the Armenian identity based on narratives regarding the genocide. The desire for genocide recognition within Australia links them to their past and the Republic of Armenia, their homeland, and is also used as a means of developing a sense of belonging to Australia, the hostland. The opposite is true for Turkish-Australians. They do not have a strong diasporic identity due to their sense of belonging to Australia which is developed through Australian notions of multiculturalism. They do not prioritise maintaining their Turkish diasporic identity and view integration and assimilation into broader society as a natural outcome of living in Australia. The Armenian allegations, when raised in Australia and supported by Australian politicians, impact on the Turkish-Australian sense of belonging to Australia as it undermines their Turkish identity and ideas of multiculturalism.

This research also demonstrates that diasporic activism in a hostland focused on an international situation with regards to a homeland can impact on the identity of other diasporic groups in the same hostland. Armenian-Australian activism is focused on defending the Republic of Armenia, and Armenian-Australian organisations engage in long distance activism in support of their homeland. The Armenian allegations, if recognised federally in Australia, could result in the formation of a stronger diasporic identity amongst Turkish-Australians due to what is perceived as an attack on their Turkish identity. Turkish-Australian activism against the allegations is focused on defending their sense of belonging to Australia.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


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