"Marks Hard to Erase": The Troubled Reclamation of "Absorbed" Armenian Women, 1919-1927

Title"Marks Hard to Erase": The Troubled Reclamation of "Absorbed" Armenian Women, 1919-1927
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsJinks, Rebecca
JournalThe American Historical Review
Pagination86 - 123
Date Published02/2018

This article explores how American and European humanitarian workers and organizations treated, and represented, a group of Armenian women who were among those "absorbed" into Turkish, Kurdish, and Bedouin households during the genocide of 1915. Taken into Bedouin households, they were tattooed on their faces and hands, according to Bedouin custom. While the "recuperation" of "absorbed" women and children was a core element of these humanitarian organizations' postwar programs of Armenian national reconstruction, most relief workers viewed the "recuperation" of the tattooed women as far more "difficult"—if not impossible—because of the physical marks they bore, and what those signified to the relief workers. Using both official and private documentation and a range of visual sources, this article unpacks differing discourses and practices around the "troubled" reclamation of the tattooed women, among a number of humanitarian organizations and their varying constituencies of relief workers. Their differences in response expose the complex shifts in interwar humanitarianism, but further consideration also reveals a deeper commonality: the drive to "classify" the objects of humanitarian aid according to criteria of recuperability, with accompanying practices of inclusion and exclusion in the name of national reconstruction—despite the avowedly "modern" claims of that postwar humanitarianism to be able to "fix" and to "save" all.

Entry by GWC Assistants / Work by GWC Assistants : 

Type of Literature:

Time Period: