Themistocles Kritikakos

Themistocles Kritikakos (PhD in History, 2021) ‘Memory and Cooperation: Genocide Recognition Efforts among Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians in Twenty-first Century Australia’

This thesis examines a unique period in the early twenty-first century when Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians in Australia cooperated to achieve genocide recognition. The Armenian genocide during the First World War (1915) has been commonly associated with genocide in the late Ottoman Empire. Whilst the Armenian genocide has gained international awareness, the persecution of Greeks and Assyrians in the late Ottoman Empire (1914–1923) remains largely unknown. This thesis brings to public attention the intergenerational memories of traumatic experiences of Greeks and Assyrians living in Australia for the first time. Using an oral history method, it investigates the place these memories have in families and communities in Australia.

The Greeks and Assyrians, traditionally neglected in the genocide discourse on the late Ottoman Empire, sought recognition alongside the Armenians. There were challenges to establishing a common narrative of victimhood given the Armenians were active in recognition efforts since the 1960s, and the Greeks and Assyrians only became active in the 1990s. The success of Armenian recognition efforts influenced intercommunal dialogue and collaboration in the late twentieth century, which led to solidarity at the turn of the century. By referencing each other’s experiences, and negotiating memories, they developed a common understanding of the past as co-victims of genocide.

Genocide recognition was achieved in the Parliament of South Australia (2009) and New South Wales (2013) with the aim of attaining national recognition from the Australian Federal Government. The recognition of their experiences could only be achieved by reimagining the Australian humanitarian response to their plight (1915–1930). The narratives of the three groups became an Australian issue and provided them with a sense of belonging. However, this challenged the shared history between Australia and Turkey surrounding Gallipoli. The Australian connection spearheaded the recognition efforts, and provided new perspectives on Australian history. Nevertheless, the Australian Federal Government is yet to recognise their plight as genocide. Although differences inform how each group remembers the past, remembrance has been negotiated among the three groups to represent a common experience of genocide.

Supervisors: Professor Joy Damousi, Dr Julie Fedor, Dr Volker Prott,  Dr Jordy Silverstein