The Bittersweet Taste of the Past: Reading Food in Armenian Literature in Turkish
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This dissertation investigates Armenian literature in Turkish through the two authors Takuhi Tovmasyan and Migirdic Margosyan by analyzing their literary works with an emphasis on food. By putting the traumatic experiences and the memories of 1915 in the cultural contexts of daily lives such as through music, food, and art, Armenians in Turkey found alternative ways to speak about their silenced past and create spaces in which to be heard. These spaces in Tovmasyan and Margosyan's case are the kitchen, the table and the market place. Reading food in literary works written by Tovmasyan and Margosyan enables us to understand and articulate the Armenian experience in Turkey since the 1990s. Food might be considered one of the "safest" topics to talk about the "other", especially when the other is integrated into the dominant culture and safely visible to the dominant gaze by stripping off its traumatic past. However, food items with their sensual properties trigger the memories of the past through smell, taste and hearing and they become important tools to remember and reconstruct the past in present conditions. This dissertation tries to answer questions such as: when a group of people continuously endure erasure and become voiceless in the face of mainstream culture, how does this group speak back in order to become visible? What are the cultural and literary tools that an ethnic community uses to reconcile with the past and get recognition in the mainstream culture? In order to find an answer to these questions, Margosyan and Tovmasyan's self narratives which are written in different literary genres are investigated. This dissertation project suggests developing an interdisciplinary approach to literature and food studies in contemporary Armenian literature in Turkish. In short, by analyzing the representation of their daily lives and its relation to the past through food performances I show how Margosyan and Tovmasyan speak back to the dominant culture in Turkey.