A failed island of no strangers
Salim Aykut Ozturk
(University College London (UCL))
Paper short abstract:
Residents of Kinaliada, a predominantly Armenian island off Istanbul, constantly compare their tiny island to those of others. Their articulations of a failed island sheds light into contemporary Armenian community making processes in post- Genocide Turkey.
Paper long abstract:
Residents of Kinaliada, a predominantly Armenian space within the Istanbul's Prince's Islands Archipelago, constantly compare their tiny island to those of others (i.e., Jews, Greeks and Turks). They believe that their island is a failed island, as unlike other islands, its residents lacked unity to deal with the ongoing problems about security, housing and municipal services. For them, in such multi-ethnic setting of the islands, each island is identified as a materialization of an ethno-religious community, and the failure of Kinaliada is believed to be a direct result of the failure of its Armenian community. The failure of the island sheds light into Armenian community making processes in post-Genocide Turkey, and everyday comparison to other islands work in relation to comparison to other non-Muslim communities and their experiences under the nation building processes in the country. There is an essential link between the failed island and the (failed) community of its residents, which account for the various diversities that deny Armenians of Istanbul a sense of unified community. Based on three years of extended research, this presentation focuses on demonstrating how constant comparison and public discussions on failure have become performative sites where simultaneously social intimacy is constituted and the right of excluding others is granted. In such context where failure in solidarity (as a community) brings about intimacy (among individuals), there is hardly any place for strangers, including the non-Armenian researcher.
The ethnographer's slip: fail again, fail better