This paper examines the nature of late Ottoman provincial intercommunal interactions and affiliations as they appear in the memoir of Hovhannes Cherishian (1886–1967), a shoemaker from late Ottoman Marash (present-day Kahramanmaraş, in southeastern Turkey). The paper is situated within the larger discourse of “untold histories” that historians have begun to address in revising the deeply ingrained post-Ottoman nationalist historiographies that dominate both academic and popular discourses. Conventional historiographies have represented former late Ottoman subject communities (e.g., Greek, Jewish, Armenian) as insulated and homogenous proto-nation-states. In the revisionist historiography, the late Ottoman Armenian voice, especially the provincial one, has been noticeably absent. Here I utilize Cherishian's memoir to examine the life and thoughts of one late Ottoman Armenian provincial subject. I focus especially on his treatment of intercommunal interactions in Anatolia and present-day Syria between 1897 and 1922. His accounts of these often extended intercommunal interactions, affiliations, and networks are characterized by intercommunal and interpersonal openness, sympathy, intimacy, and pleasure, even as he presents them side-by-side with descriptions of deportation and death at the hands of the late Ottoman state. I develop the idea of what I call “provincial cosmopolitanism” to conceptualize and represent the disposition, affinity, and process of identity formation that enabled Cherishian to create and operate these interpersonal relationships and networks that propelled his life, a historical condition to which we are not currently privy in most historiographical accounts of the late Ottoman period.
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