GIScience for Genocide Studies: Challenges and Methods for Managing and Analyzing Geohistorical Data
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The main purpose of this dissertation is to explore the use of Geographic Information Science (GIScience) and historical Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to study the Armenian Genocide and to contribute to a somewhat limited corpus on the geography of genocide. Issues related to geohistorical data, and possible solutions, will also be discussed in chapters one through five where chapter one is the introduction and chapter five is the conclusion of this dissertation. The three main chapters of my research are chapters two, three, and four described briefly below.
Chapter two describes the integration of the Kazarian Manuscript, a narrative of the Armenian Genocide, into a historical GIS illustrating and analyzing the genocide using a stage model as a guiding framework. Models outlining and describing the stages of genocide provide a structured and vetted approach to studying the geography of the processes such as genocide by attrition. Further, this chapter focuses on the processes leading to mass murder and their associated perpetrators as defined within the parameters of stage models. This chapter also links historical GIS to a qualitative, historical source and discusses the uncertainty of place and time when working with past events. Finally, this chapter proposes new stages left out of current models of genocide and contributes to the debate on the processes of genocide.
Chapter three explores the spatial aspects of the Armenian Genocide based on data expounded from the Kazarian Manuscript as seen in chapter two. Using a purely qualitative historic manuscript, I designed and built a geodatabase using event and location information pulled from the manuscript. This process uncovered several issues related to the uncertainty and reliability of geohistorical data in general, but also with data on the Armenian Genocide specifically. These uncertainties include the lack of accurate and consistent base maps of Turkey from 1914. My analysis revealed an escalation of violence in 1914 with a peak in 1915 marked by a dramatic increase in events followed by a steady decline of events through 1922. I strove to create a database useful as a starting point to build upon by using additional historical sources such as survivor testimony and oral histories in order to improve on the uncertainties in the data and to expand the database for more meaningful analysis.
Chapter four proposes a structure for handling commonly observed uncertainties in geohistorical data, using as case studies two historical GIS projects that interweave historical research with the geography of genocide. The first case involves the ghettoization of Budapest’s Jews during the Holocaust in the second half of 1944. The second case covers the Armenian Genocide spanning most of WWI and several years afterwards. I propose using existing metadata standards as one way of handling the inherent uncertainties of geohistorical sources. While not a definitive solution, I argue that such an approach provides a starting point and a platform to conceptually frame the use of geohistorical data in historical GIS.