Survivor Objects and the Lost World of Ottoman Armenians | Heghnar Watenpaugh


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E 407 | The genre of biography usually applies to people, but could a similar approach be applied to an object? Can a thing have a life of its own? In this episode, Heghnar Watenpaugh explores this question by tracing the long journey of the Zeytun Gospels, a famous illuminated manuscript considered to be a masterpiece of medieval Armenian art. Protected for centuries in a remote church in eastern Anatolia, the sacred book traveled with the waves of people displaced by the Armenian genocide. Passed from hand to hand, caught in the chaos of the First World War, it was divided in two. Decades later, the manuscript found its way to the Republic of Armenia, while its missing eight pages came to the Getty Museum in LA. In this interview, we discuss how the Zeytun Gospels could be understood as a "survivor object," contributing to current discussions about the destruction of cultural heritage. We also talk about the challenges of writing history for a broader reading public. See more at Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh is Professor of Art History at the University of California, Davis. She is the award-winning author of The Image of an Ottoman City: Architecture in Aleppo (2004). Her writing has also appeared in the Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Emily Neumeier is Assistant Professor of Art History at Temple University. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. Her research concerns the art and architecture of the Islamic world, particularly of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. She is co-curator of our series on The Visual Past. CREDITS Episode No.407 Release Date: 25 March 2019 Recording Location: New Haven, CT Audio editing by Emily Neumeier Music:"The Dark Cloud" by Mesrout Takakjian and "Song of Freedom" by Bedros Haroutunian, 1939, Fresno, CA. Both made available by the Library of Congress. Images and bibliography courtesy of Heghnar Watenpaugh Available at

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