After a decade of meticulous research in more than 15 archives, Bedross Der Matossian’s book on the Adana Massacres of 1909 has recently been published in paperback, hardcover, and kindle editions by Stanford University Press.
Titled “The Horrors of Adana: Revolution and Violence in the Early Twentieth Century,” the book examines the 1909 twin massacres that shook the province of Adana, located in the southern Anatolia region of modern-day Turkey, killing more than 20,000 Armenians and 2,000 Muslims. Images of Adana after the massacres show unprecedented physical destruction of a once prosperous city. Local Armenian businesses, churches, residences, and living quarters were totally destroyed.
The violence that began in the city of Adana soon spread across the province and poured beyond its borders eastward into the province of Aleppo. In terms of the number of victims, this was the third-largest act of violence perpetrated at the beginning of the twentieth century, following only the Boxer rebellion (1899–1901) and the genocide of the Herero and Nama between 1904 and 1907 in the German colony of southwest Africa.
The central Ottoman government immediately sent investigation commissions and established courts-martial to try the perpetrators of the massacres. However, these courts failed to prosecute the main culprits of the massacres—a miscarriage of justice that would have repercussions in the years to come.
“The Horrors of Adana” offers one of the first close examinations of these events, analyzing sociopolitical and economic transformations that culminated in a cataclysm of violence. Drawing on primary sources in a dozen languages, the book provides an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the rumors and emotions, public spheres and humanitarian interventions that together informed this complex event. Ultimately, through consideration of the Adana Massacres in micro-historical detail, “The Horrors of Adana” presents an important macrocosmic understanding of ethnic violence, illuminating how and why ordinary people can become perpetrators.
Despite the significance of these events and the extent of violence and destruction, the Adana Massacres are often left out of historical narratives especially in the historiographies of Ottoman and Middle Eastern studies. Denialists of the Armenian Genocide continue to propagate the provocation thesis regarding these massacres. They view the “events” or the “disturbances” of Adana as a failed uprising by Armenians to bring in European intervention with the aim of erecting the Kingdom of Cilicia. Furthermore, they normalize the resulting violence as a natural byproduct of Armenian “provocations.”
Der Matossian offers a necessary corrective to these narratives by arguing that outbreaks like the Adana massacres do not occur sui generis; they are caused by a range of complex, intersecting factors that are deeply rooted in the shifting local and national ground of political and socioeconomic life. The book also addresses the question of how better to understand the Adana massacres in relation to the Armenian Genocide, while bearing in mind their individual trajectories rather than simply viewing the first event as foreshadowing the second.
“‘The Horrors of Adana’ is a truly groundbreaking and highly nuanced exploration of intercommunal, sectarian, and nationalist violence in the late Ottoman Empire. A must-read for scholars of the modern Middle East,” said Ussama Makdisi, Rice University, author of “Age of Coexistence: The Ecumenical Frame and the Making of the Modern Arab World.”
“‘The Horrors of Adana’ is an outstanding analysis of a massacre never before deeply studied. Bedross Der Matossian offers a thorough inquiry into the perpetrators, victims, bystanders, and social-political context, useful to all those interested in understanding processes of mass violence,” said Jacques Semelin, Sciences Po Paris, author of “Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide.”
“With ‘The Horrors of Adana,’ the Adana Massacres get their own story, a story that needs telling. Bedross Der Matossian’s deeply researched and engagingly argued book situates Adana in a longer trajectory of ‘forgotten’ massacres and as part of Ottoman history more broadly,” said Michelle Tusan, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, author of “The British Empire and the Armenian Genocide: Humanitarianism and Imperial Politics from Gladstone to Churchill.”
Copies of the book can be purchases through Amazon or by visiting the Stanford University Press website.
Bedross Der Matossian is the Vice-Chair, Associate Professor of Modern Middle East History, and Hymen Rosenberg Professor in Judaic Studies the at Department of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is also the President of the Society for Armenian Studies.
Born and raised in Jerusalem, he is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He completed his Ph.D. in Middle East History in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University in 2008. From 2008 to 2010, he was a Lecturer of Middle East History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has been appointed as the Dumanian Visiting Professor in the University of Chicago for Spring 2014. He is the author and co-editor of multiple books including the award-winning book “Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire” (Stanford University Press, 2014).
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