The Historiographic Perversion

The Historiographic Perversion

MARC NICHANIAN
TRANSLATED, WITH AN AFTERWORD, BY GIL ANIDJAR
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/nich14908
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  • Book Info
    The Historiographic Perversion
    Book Description:

    Genocide is a matter of law. It is also a matter of history. Engaging some of the most disturbing responses to the Armenian genocide, Marc Nichanian strikingly reveals the complex role played by law and history in making this and other genocides endure as contentious events.

    Nichanian's book argues that both law and history fail to contend with the very nature of events for which there is no archive (no documents, no witnesses). Both history and law fail to address the modern reality that events can be-and are now being-perpetrated that depend upon the destruction of the archive, turning monstrous deeds into nonevents. Genocide, this book makes us see, is in one sense the destruction of the archive. It relies on the historiographic perversion.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52162-8
    Subjects: History, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. INTRODUCTION: THE NAMES AND THE ARCHIVE
    (pp. 1-18)

    THIS BOOK SPEAKS OF TRUTH IN HISTORY AND OF THE MODERN status of testimony in relation to the genocidal events of the twentieth century. It is a collection of four studies written over the course of the last few years, practically under the sway of circumstances. Its conclusion is a reflection on shame. Such disparate writing does not diminish, I think, the consistency of an interrogation, the contours of which I attempt to draw once again in this introduction.

    Genocide is not a fact (Le génocide nest pas un fait).

    Genocide is not a fact because it is...

  4. 1. THE LAW AND THE FACT: THE 1994 CAMPAIGN
    (pp. 19-32)

    THE SYSTEMATIC AND RADICAL EXTERMINATION OF THE Armenians of the Ottoman Empire during the years 1915–1916 is finally, or so it seems, on the current agenda. It has been eighty years since the event.¹ For the survivors and their descendants, it never ceased being current. Not for an instant. If it is so today, it is only for “civilized humanity” and for the duration of a trial and a judgment. The trial is that which brought before a French civil court the famous historian of the Islamic world and of the Ottoman Empire Bernard Lewis. He was summoned before...

  5. 2. BETWEEN AMPUTATION AND IMPUTATION
    (pp. 33-58)

    IN 1998–99, WHAT WILL HENCEFORTH BE CALLED THE Veinstein affair shook our certainties more than any other. Gilles Veinstein, a distinguished French historian of the Ottoman Empire, had written a strange article in 1994, at the height of the Lewis affair, and obviously at the request of the interested party. In this article (published in the journal Histoire in April 1995), he repeated, without precaution, but also without originality, each and every negationist argument pertaining to the extermination of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. In 1998, Veinstein became a candidate to the Collège de France, and that article...

  6. 3. REFUTATION
    (pp. 59-90)

    IN 1991, UNDER THE DIRECTION OF SAUL FRIEDLANDER, A conference was held at the University of California, Los Angeles (the proceedings were published soon thereafter under the title Probing the Limits of Representation).¹ As a project, but also by way of its historical importance and its synthetic intention, the conference was similar to one held in Paris ten years earlier that is also available in book form as LAllemagne nazie et le genocide juif (Nazi Germany and the Jewish genocide). The resemblance of the projects and of the intentions hides, however, a very important difference. The 1981 conference...

  7. 4. TESTIMONY: FROM DOCUMENT TO MONUMENT
    (pp. 91-116)

    WE HAVE SEEN THE HISTORICAL SENSITIVITY CARLO GINZBURG demonstrated vis-à-vis the transformation that has occurred in the status of testimony over the course of the twentieth century. Of course, his denegating position does not motivate him to name it or to seek after its characteristics. There is, after all, a largely public aspect to this transformation. The recent book written by Annette Wieviorka, The Era of the Witness, traces the different stages through which the testimonies of Nazi camps survivors have had to go before being largely received and transformed into an object of reflection and a subject of study:...

  8. CONCLUSION: SHAME AND TESTIMONY
    (pp. 117-124)

    AND NOW, IN THE GUISE OF A CONCLUSION, IT REMAINS FOR me to do what is most difficult. It remains for me to speak of shame, the logic of shame, and to do so not in an allusive manner and in passing, as I have done so far, but by taking shame as a theme, by really speaking of it and from it, by confronting it face to face.¹

    As long as I remember myself, in fact, I have felt shame. The confession of shame has in itself something irrefutable. You can refute my arguments. You could cast doubt on...

  9. AGAINST HISTORY
    (pp. 125-160)
    GIL ANIDJAR

    TO WRITE HISTORY AFTER AUSCHWITZ IS BARBARIC.

    Thus the inescapable conclusion toward which Marc Nichanian leads us.¹ At the provisional limit of the singular trajectory traced by his extended work (of which The Historiographic Perversion constitutes a small, if remarkable, part), this formulation is hardly forced, nor does it appear to articulate a substantial departure from Theodor Adorno’s famous assertion (“to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”), only an intensification of its claim, indeed, a version or translation of it.² Yet, the formulation practically engages with historical difference—“our historical differences actually make a difference”—in its claim to bridge...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 161-194)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 195-206)