FRESNO — The Society for Armenian Studies (SAS) announced that Dr. Mehmet Polatel has been chosen to receive the SAS Distinguished Dissertation Award for 2015-2017 for his dissertation “Armenians and the Land Question in the Ottoman Empire, 1870-1914.” The SAS Award is accompanied by a $1,000 prize.

Mehmet Polatel received a Ph.D. in Modern Turkish History from Bogazici University (Istanbul) in 2017. He is a historian focusing on late Ottoman history and the early Turkish Republic. His research interests are in the fields of power, state formation, social change, nationalism, and genocide. He has conducted research on the fate of Armenian property in the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey. He is the co-author, with Ugur Ümit Üngör, of Confiscation and Destruction: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian Property (London and New York, 2011). Currently, he is a Manoogian post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Polatel’s dissertation examines the emergence and transformation of the land question in the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century, focusing on the extent and characteristics of land disputes concerning Armenians. The views on the land question, which emerged as a distinct social problem in the 1870s, varied among the central government, local authorities, the Armenian political elite, Armenian institutions, Kurdish powerholders, and the Kurdish political elite. Based on Armenian, British, and Ottoman sources, this study demonstrates that there were significant changes in the extent and characteristics of land disputes during and after the massacres of 1894-1897. These novelties include the escalation of the problem, the participation of ordinary people in the seizure of Armenian properties, the dispossession of Armenian large landowners, and the development of a state policy directed at changing the demographic profile of the population in the region.

On the news of receiving the award, Dr. Polatel stated: “I am humbled and deeply honored to receive this award from the Society for Armenian Studies which has been promoting Armenian studies for decades. It means a lot to me. I sincerely thank the selection committee for considering my dissertation to be worthy of this distinguished award.”

The SAS also chose Dr. Christopher Sheklian’s dissertation, “Theology and Community: The Armenian Minority, Tradition, and Secularism in Turkey” (University of Chicago, 2017), for honorable mention. Dr. Sheklian is director of the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center at the Armenian Diocese in New York.

The Society for Armenian Studies, founded in 1974, is an international professional association representing scholars and teachers in the field of Armenian Studies. The aim of the SAS is to promote the study of Armenian culture and society, including history, language, literature, and social, political, and economic questions.

The SAS ( societyforarmenianstudies.com) is headquartered at the Armenian Studies Program at California State University, Fresno. It publishes the peer-reviewed Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies and a semi-annual online Newsletter, and organizes panels and conferences on Armenian Studies.

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