Leaving a Life Behind: Eliza Binemeciyan’s Encounter with “the Banality of Evil”

In: Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies
Ayşe Kadıoğlu Professor of Political Science, Sabancı University Istanbul Turkey

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Among the Armenian actors who were essential in creating and sustaining Istanbul theaters at the turn of the twentieth century, Eliza Binemeciyan (1890-1981) emerged as a prominent one. In the aftermath of taking part in the play Kösem Sultan in 1912, she became the star of Istanbul theaters for more than a decade until she left her beloved city when she was 35 years old. She never returned to Istanbul, the city that was her home and where the remains of her parents, both well known Armenian actors, were buried. Her story as well as the stories of her Armenian colleagues reveal the decline of cosmopolitanism and the rise of nationalism in Istanbul. The change of scene in Istanbul theaters from multi-lingualism and cosmopolitanism to nationalism was like a microcosm of the policies of Turkification during the decline of the Ottoman Empire. In many memoirs about the era, Eliza Binemeciyan’s departure was normalized since she was depicted as an actor whose absence fostered the acting careers of Muslim Turkish women without much regard for her remarkable presence in Istanbul theaters.

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