Irem Gülersönmez

Irem Gülersönmez, M.A.

University of London (october – december 2020)

PhD project : The Historical Imagery of Violence in the 19th Century Ottoman Diasporas


Irem Gülersönmez is a Ph.D. candidate at Birkbeck, University of London. Her current research focuses on the early twentieth century images of violence of Ottoman Armenians and its relation to forced displacement, vulnerability and resistance.

This work has been supported by DFK Paris, London Art History Society, the Society for the Study of French History and the Royal Historical Society.

Her article “Clothes, Weapons and Photographs: State Propaganda and the Survival of Ottoman Armenians during the First World War” will appear in the forthcoming edited volume Material Culture & Armenian Studies (2022). Irem holds a BA and MA in History from Bogazici University, Istanbul and was a visiting student at Paris 1 and EHESS.

Research focus

From the Ottoman Empire to France: The Historical Imagery of Violence of Armenians (1909-1928)


The project looks at images of successive waves of mass violence exercised on Ottoman Armenians from the massacres in Adana in 1909 to the expulsion of the refugee camps in Marseille in 1927 to explore how different images of Armenians produced by the Ottoman and French state, by Christian missionaries and Armenians themselves shaped the understanding of violence, victimisation and humanitarian aid. By moving away from binary frameworks such as the perpetrator/ the victim, the savour/ the saved inscribed to photographs related to the Armenian Genocide, the project challenges images in propaganda pamphlets as well as military and state documents to seek for possibilities to overturn the passive voice of Armenians. It explores the multiple ways in which Armenians expressed themselves, through the construction of life both literally (in the form of buildings) and metaphorically (as survivors).

The project examines not only images of explicit violence and atrocities, but also images that lack representational violence and can nevertheless be related to the event through the context in which they were produced. This methodological stance not only enriches the archival quest but also creates the opportunity to rethink how histories of violence are written. As photographs lacking explicit violence stand as “placeholders of the untaken /inaccessible” (Azoulay, [2019]) photographs of the event, they put into question concepts of evidence, knowledge and documentary. 



Irem Gülersönmez , M.A.