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Columbia University to Host Balakian’s Talk on Traveling to Turkey

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On Wed., Sept. 25, Professor Peter Balakian, the Rebar Professor of the Humanities at Colgate University and the Visiting Ordjanian Professor of Armenian Studies at Columbia University, will deliver a talk titled “Terror and Taboo: Going to Turkey” at Columbia University’s Faculty House. Hosted by the University Seminar on Cultural Memory, Balakian will discuss the difficulties of returning to the place of his father’s birth, Istanbul—or Constantinople, when his family left as refugees of the Armenian Genocide in 1922.

“In my family, the Armenian past in Turkey was a fraught and repressed issue,” said Balakian, the author of Black Dog of Fate and The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response. “The word ‘Turkey’ evoked a haunted place. How does one approach this lost place with this weight of history?”

In the decades following the genocide, the Turkish government has actively pursued a worldwide denial campaign. As a poet, memoirist, and scholar, Balakian has immersed himself in the history of the genocide and its aftermath.

“Peter Balakian is one of the foremost writers on the memory and transmission of the Armenian Genocide to younger generations,” said Marianne Hirsch, the co-director of the University Seminar on Cultural Memory, which hosts discussions of return and discovery of memory on sites of past atrocity. “We are eager to hear how his first visit to Turkey and his confrontation with the history of his ancestors has inflected his inherited memories of the Armenian Genocide.”

Balakian’s talk will begin at 6 p.m. at the Faculty House, located at 64 Morningside Drive in New York. This event is free and open to the public.

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