They Can Live in the Desert But Nowhere Else: Chapters 1-6

Review of chapters 1-6 of They Can Live in the Desert But Nowhere Else: A History of the Armenian Genocide 

There were some aspects about this book that I liked, but many aspects that made it difficult to read. There were no eye-witness accounts or descriptions of how things played out, especially in terms of violence. The author would list facts about the violence, for example he would list how many Armenians died in a certain massacre, but would provide no explanation for how it took place or what people experienced. As a result, the reading was quite dry. This book seemed to be a detailed listing of facts in conjunction to one another, lacking emotion. There were too many details to keep track of and the book was very fast paced. It was almost that the author expected that the reader already knew the basics of the Armenian Genocide before reading this book. There was little explanation. Also, it was very odd whenever the author would all of a sudden switch into first person and add in how this book connected to him personally, such as whenever he would mention his grandmother’s experiences. It sounded very choppy and was done so rarely that it was just plain weird.

As far as content, the first six chapters of this book explained in depth the entire history of the Ottoman Empire and the history of the Armenian people; most of it was pertinent to a discussion about the Armenian Genocide. I learned a lot of things about the Ottoman Empire and the government’s intentions for furthering the Empire’s success throughout history. Yet, it was a lot to take in at one time and I was left confused about a lot of topics. Regarding the history of the Armenians in conjunction with the Ottoman Empire, I cannot understand what compelled these people to continue on throughout multiple centuries in which they were always alienated, blamed, and threatened. One major idea that was communicated by Suny was that the desire to succeed as an empire, that upheld only one major ideology, created a state of constant suspicion, division, and limited speech in the Ottoman Empire. The first six chapters tell a lot about the backwards thinking of many political groups and leaders within the Ottoman Empire that contributed to genocide.

1. If many European nations witnessed the plight of the Armenians, why did none of them step in to offer aid?
2. Has the idea of a nation, and what requires it to be considered a nation, changed today from the 20th century idea of a nation mentioned by Suny?
3. Why was the suggestion of assimilation of different minority groups in Ottoman society allowed to transform into massacre and removal?

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