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ArOr Archiv orientální: Journal of African and Asian Studies


On October 2, 1878, Narduhi Magarian and Sahag Ağa Tevrizian were wed in the Ottoman border town of Erzurum. Soon afterwards, both of them sought freedom from this union, one foisted upon them by Narduhi’s wealthy, violent, and alcohol-addled father, Garabed Efendi Magarian. The toxic fallout of this failed marriage prompted the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople to order an investigation. The resulting witness testimonies, held in a fragment of the Patriarchate’s records in Paris, describe the beginnings of this coerced marriage, the domestic violence it involved, and the anxieties about sex and potency that it stoked. These letters also have much to say about national and gendered silences imposed by the indefinite inaccessibility of the Armenian Patriarchate’s archive in Istanbul. This marriage highlights an aftereffect of national violence: how the apprehensions swirling around it serve to stifle history-writing about gendered violence. Through a single episode in the life of an Armenian woman, it also offers a view onto domestic abuse, marriage, and sex in a crisis-ridden Ottoman borderland. Although there may be an urge to recover Narduhi’s voice, avoiding that temptation shows how her story is important less for what it recovers than for two historical narratives that it disrupts: one that circumscribes women’s history with ideals of self-sacrifice and moral rectitude and another that attempts to construct a singular national past in the wake of catastrophe.


marriage, sex, gender, violence, archives, Armenian studies, Ottoman history, Subaltern studies








© 2023 Oriental Institute (CAS), Prague


Archived as published with permission.



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