Displacement, memory and empathy: A comparative analysis of Greek-Turkish and Turkish-Armenian rapprochement

By Leonidas Karakatsanis
Submitted to Session P5015 (Negotiating Memories and Legacies of Communal Violence in WWI Anatolia, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Achieving success in reconciliation efforts is far from a linear process. This is especially so in the case of historical conflicts where long-enduring mutually negative perceptions reign. Turkish-Greek or Turkish-Armenian relations are paradigmatic cases here. In cases like these, the ability to overcome the mirror effect of prejudice and mistrust qualifies as one of the most important preconditions for solving any pending bilateral disputes.
The creation of empathy across societies stands, rightfully, as a widely recognised criterion for assessing the success of reconciliation initiatives. Displacement, on the other hand, has been an effect of such historical conflicts, carrying a heavy emotional/affective load and linking the past to the present. Memories of displacement are not abstract. They are often based on real experiences of personal, family or community pain and loss, and they are transmitted from generation to generation. Furthermore, the material traces of displacement (the family house left behind, the village mosques or church, etc.) appear as reminders of a painful past.
The paper draws from already completed work of the author on the significant role that the reframing of memories of displacement played for creating feelings of empathy between segments of the societies in Greece and Turkey, contributing, in turn, to the betterment of Turkish-Turkish relations. This work is then juxtaposed to recent ethnographies and sociological works on memory in the Turkish-Armenian case.
As part of a work in progress for the comparison of reconciliation processes in the Middle East, this paper explores the comparability of reconciliation processes in the Turkish-Greek and Turkish-Armenian cases. The author presents some tentative results regarding prospects and challenges of rethinking displacement, memory and empathy as means of reconciliation.