If These Bones Could Speak
Early Armenian Pilgrimages to the Killing Fields of Dayr al-Zur

In this presentation, Elyse Semerdjian outlines the earliest Armenian pilgrimages to the killing fields of Dayr al-Zur in the Syrian Desert. It is there that Armenians interacted with the remains of Armenians murdered during the Armenian Genocide (1915-1918) in acts of remembrance. Semerdjian discusses the origins of the now-destroyed Armenian Genocide Memorial in Dayr al-Zur and the ritual and collection habits of pilgrims that enact what she calls bone memory. Using archival documents alongside recorded testimony of survivors preserved in the USC Shoah Foundation archives, she presents the genesis of these memory practices that largely halted during the Syrian War.

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