“As Brave as Armenak Efendi”

Ethnic Hierarchies and the Precarious Masculinity of an Ottoman Armenian Officer during the Great War

  • Yaşar Tolga Cora Assistant Professor in the Department of His- tory at Boğaziçi University
Keywords: Armenians, memoirs, military, Ottoman army, precarious masculinity, soldier-citizens, World War I

Abstract

This article examines the different ways in which masculinity and ethnicity were mu- tually constructed during the Great War and the Armenian Genocide by analyzing the memoirs of Armenak Melikyan, an Armenian cavalry officer in the Ottoman Army. It discusses why Melikyan emphasized in his memoirs certain values, such as dutiful- ness, resourcefulness, and hard work, which were all firmly associated with the he- gemonic masculine model of citizen-soldiers in the late Ottoman Empire. The article further examines the emphasis Melikyan laid on the public recognition he received for his qualities as an officer from Muslim/Turkish superiors, thus reflecting both ethnic and gendered hierarchies in the army. The article argues that many Armenian soldiers in the Ottoman army performed according to hegemonic masculine models in order to defend their precarious masculinity against physical and psychological challenges. This allowed them to remasculinize themselves in the context of the Great War and the Genocide. The article contributes to the study of military memoirs in the late Ottoman Empire by underlining the relation between social and cultural norms and expecta- tions on the one hand and the individual self-perception of military experiences on the other, in the context of the war and ethnic violence.

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Author Biography

Yaşar Tolga Cora, Assistant Professor in the Department of His- tory at Boğaziçi University

Yaşar Tolga Cora is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Boğaziçi University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2016 and he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Armenian Studies program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2016-2017. His research is on the social and economic history of the late Ottoman Empire, with a particular focus on Armenian communities in Anatolia, and life narratives of Ottoman Armenians. Among his other publications are Harbiyeli Bir Osmanlı Ermenisi: Mülâzım-ı Sânî Kalusd Sürmenyan’ın Birinci Dünya Savaşı ve Tehcir Anıları (2015) and (co-edited with D. Derderian and A. Sipahi) The Ottoman East in the Nineteenth Century: Societies, Identities and Politics (2016).

Published
2021-02-16
How to Cite
Cora, Y. T. (2021). “As Brave as Armenak Efendi”: Ethnic Hierarchies and the Precarious Masculinity of an Ottoman Armenian Officer during the Great War. Archiv orientální, 88(3), 401-428. https://doi.org/10.47979/aror.j.88.3.401-428