Coming to terms with a difficult past: the trauma of the assassination of Hrant Dink and its repercussions on Turkish national identity

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Abstract

This paper takes as its subject the question of why some nations are less willing to acknowledge past atrocities. To answer that question, it focuses on the assassination of Hrant Dink – a Turkish-Armenian journalist – and its repercussions on Turkish national identity. Scrutinising newspaper articles written before and after the assassination (2004–2007), it casts a detailed glance at the struggle between two carrier groups – pro- and anti-acknowledgement groups – and argues that the assassination increased the likelihood of the acknowledgement of the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 by creating a cultural trauma informed by collective guilt. However, the relief generated by the funeral, combined with the strength of the master commemorative narrative regarding the mass killings, decreased that likelihood, and despite the huge public reaction created by the assassination there was no attempt at acknowledgement. As such, the paper contributes to our understanding of the trauma of perpetrators and claims that, in addition to other factors listed by earlier studies, cultural trauma is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for coming to terms with difficult pasts.

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