Thursday, May 9, 2013

Doumanis On Muslim - Christian Coexistence

Margarita Papantoniou

N. Doumanis, an academic in Australia of Greek descent, wrote the book, Before the Nation: Muslim-Christian Coexistence and its Destruction in Late-Ottoman Anatolia.

The book answers questions, such as: What kind of life did Greeks have under the Ottoman Empire? Why were so many Greek Orthodox Christians living in Asia Minor before 1912? Why did so many Greeks migrate to Asia Minor during that period?

“For decades after the Catastrophe of Smyrna in 1922, Greek Orthodox Christians that were deported from their Anatolian homelands maintained their love for their country and for the loss of the communities they shared with Muslims,” Doumanis said, adding that, “The Muslim-Christian coexistence has never been taken seriously under historian’s consideration.”

Greek Orthodox refugees insisted that they lived well with the Turks and yearned for the days when they worked and drank coffee together, participated in each others’ festivals, and even prayed to the same saints, as reported on the Oxford University Press website.

The book argues that there is more than a grain of truth in these nostalgic traditions. It points out the fact that inter-communality, a mode of everyday living based on the protection of cultural differences, was a normal and stabilizing feature of multi-ethnic societies.

“If common Anatolians have been left to their fate, the neighbors would have continued living as before,” Doumanis said. “It was the ruthless foreigners and political opportunists those who wanted to turn one group against another, in order to destabilize their inter-communal coexistence during that period.”

Drawing largely from an oral archive containing interviews with over 5,000 refugees, Doumanis examines the mentality, cosmology, and value systems as they relate to cultures of coexistence. He furthermore rejects the commonplace assumption that the empire was destroyed by inter-communal hatred.

Doumanis teaches world history at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. His first book, Myth and Memory in the Mediterranean (1997) won the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History. He has written extensively on the history of Mediterranean Europe, social memory, and migration.

He will officially present his book on May 8 in Sydney, during an event organized by the Greek Festival.

Source: Oxford University Press website

Source: Greek Reporter Australia

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