WORCESTER, Mass. (Armenian Weekly)—Historian Taner Akçam recently received the Middle East Studies Association’s (MESA) 2013 Hourani Book Prize for The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire.
MESA’s statement reads: “We award the 2013 Hourani Book Prize to Taner Akçam’s for The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, a compelling work of scholarship that provides the strongest historical argument to date regarding the Armenian Genocide. Based solely on Ottoman documents, Professor Akçam details the motives, the planning, the communications, the organization and the execution of the Ottoman demographic policy. In the field of genocide studies it broadens the concept of genocide to include the forced assimilation of children and women and the confiscation of property. It sets a new standard for scholarship in a controversial field.”
The award holds particular significance in light of the history of MESA’s approach to Armenian Genocide scholarship. In the introduction to his book, Akçam wrote the following about MESA’s stance:
“This work may also be read as a critical reflection on the silences in Ottoman historiography as practiced both in Europe and in the United States until recently. Most historians of the Ottoman period have elided the internal deportations, expulsions, massacres, and genocide that took place during the demise of the empire. These events have been ‘nonexistent’ in their works. What is more, broaching this subject has generally been dismissed as a disturbing expression of narrow-minded ethnocentrism by members of the targeted ethnic groups. Not so long ago, it was common practice to shun anyone who tried to open the topic at the annual meetings of the Middle East Studies Association, the umbrella organization for scholars in this field. It was as if ignoring mass deportations and annihilation were an academic virtue and noble act.”
In light of MESA’s history, “I consider this as an historic award and historic step from MESA. I dedicate this award to scholars like Vahakn Dadrian and Richard Hovannisian who diligently and tirelessly worked in the early years of MESA to get their voices heard,” Akçam told the Armenian Weekly.
Taner Akçam is the Robert Aram, Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marion Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University.