Legislating Reality and Politicizing History – Contextualizing Armenian Claims of Genocide


A stirring critique of the Armenian campaign

This in-depth study of Armenian identity deconstructs the highly politicized nature of „Armenian Genocide“ campaign and demonstrates that it has little to do with historical realities. It also highlights major international and domestic factors that inform and drive the campaign. In doing so, the author conclusively shows how the campaign’s wanton use of the term „genocide“ for political purposes actively undermines international legal norms and negatively affects both Turkey’s and Armenia’s international relations.

37 vorrätig


Legislating Reality and Politicizing History: Contextualizing Armenian Claims of Genocide is the first in-depth study of Armenian and Armenian Diaspora identity viewed via the prism of a historical trauma. Though numerous attempts to define a larger Armenian identity through history, language and/or religion have been performed, no major study has demonstrated the centrality of the events of 1915 to this identity and the formation of Self and Other. The book demonstrates how the Armenian campaign to have the events of 1915 recognized as the Armenian Genocide, flawed and racist as the campaign may be, remains the single bond possessing enough strength to bind the otherwise linguistic, geographically and religiously diverse Armenian Diaspora communities together.

Utilizing a quantitative and comparative approach, peppered with International Relations theory and the political economy of lobbying (niche theory), this book demonstrates the pervasiveness and political power of the re-imagined trauma of 1915 to Armenian large group identity. This identity, divorced by time and space from historical realities, relies on efforts to gain ad hoc legislation through the politicization of history in order to convince the world of what Armenians refer to as the Armenian Genocide.

This groundbreaking book argues that these political actions as well as the powerful identity narrative underpinning these actions is significant for several reasons. One, this emotive issue and the campaign it has spawned directly affects the future of multiple nation-states (Turkey and Armenia, in particular) as well as a non-state entity, the powerful Armenian diaspora. Two, the campaign regarding which semantics to use in referencing century-old events increasingly dominates international relations between Turkey and the West.

Three, by deconstructing the role the trauma of 1915 plays in the development and fecundity of Armenian large group identity, as well as its transmission from generation to generation, an understanding of the quest to legislate reality through the politicization of history is gained. That is, century-old images and caricatures, often racist and bearing no relationship to present-day realities, underpin the campaign (the terrible Turk, anti-Muslim sentiments) and still carry weight – not only for Armenians but much of the West and Russia.

This has normative implications and this book demonstrates how Armenian identity, which drives and informs the Armenian diaspora’s campaign of Armenian genocide, recognition actively undermines the strict legal definition and therefore legitimacy that is the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1948. This is done through the wanton application of term “genocide” to the events of 1915, which undercuts established definitions and norms and therefore allows and encourages the rather elastic use of the term for political gain. This further undermines the symbolic weight and power of the UN convention and thereby complicating the courts ability to punish genocide perpetrators.

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Brendon J. Cannon










"This is the most comprehensive book I have seen detailing the politicization of the term genocide, its abuse and attempts to legislate reality. Brendon J. Cannon weaves history, politics, memory and the law together to offer a sophisticated analysis of why and how the Armenian diaspora and other Turkophobic groups marshal resources in their attempt to gain recognition that the events of 1915 constituted a genocide. In doing so, Cannon offers a comprehensive account of the attempts to rewrite history through the strategies of definitional elasticity and ad hoc legislation. This book offers a stirring critique of those who seek to use legislative power to establish an overtly politicized version of history in relation to the highly tragic and complicated demise of the Ottoman Empire. It also shows that those who seek to label these events as genocide and criminalize alternative interpretations of the past do so by circumventing legal norms and conventions, thus undermining the validity and importance of the global legal regime and the very term “genocide.” Cannon illustrates the negative consequences of this retrospective moralization of history and its destructive impact on free speech and inquiry."
M. Hakan Yavuz, Professor of Political Science, University of Utah; author of War and Collapse: World War I and the Ottoman State.

“Dr. Brendon Cannon’s Legislating Reality and Politicizing History is not a traditional history of what happened in 1915. Rather it is the history of the evolution of two opposing narratives and how these narratives affect modern memory and politics. Cannon’s work is a superb explanation about why the Armenian position has achieved global recognition and why the Turkish position has not.”
Dr. Edward J. Erickson, Professor of Military History, Marine Corps University; author of Ottomans and Armenians: A Study in Counterinsurgency.

“This groundbreaking book brings together multiple academic disciplines and sources to provide an in-depth study of Armenian and Armenian Diaspora identity viewed via the prism of a historical trauma. By deconstructing the centrality of the events of 1915 to Armenian identity, Brendon Cannon is able to explain the campaign it has spawned. The conclusion, based on sober analysis, is that the campaign has little to with history, is all about politics and has the detrimental effect of undermining the very legal
norms it purportedly supports.”
Sevtap Demirci, Associate Professor of History, Boğaziçi University; author of Strategies and Struggles: British Rhetoric and Turkish Response:the Lausanne Conference (1922-1923).

“The events of 1915 have developed into the cornerstone of Armenian identity. Brendon Cannon deals with how the trauma of war still affects its victims one century later and how the "genocide" – a truth for Armenians that is challenged by Turks and others – has been called an "albatross," overshadowing both ethnic groups and from which there seems no escape. This book deals with memory, beliefs, perceptions, the influence of the diaspora on the politics of Armenia and the efforts by Armenian lobbies to persuade the world to accept their version of history. This is a volatile issue, often generating more heat than light. It badly needs the kind of calm, rational and thoughtful analysis Dr. Cannon provides in this fine study.”
Jeremy Salt, Professor of History; author of Imperialism, Evangelism and the Ottoman Armenians, 1878-1896 .


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