[This article is the part of a series comprising a review roundtable on Aslı Iğsız's book, Humanism in Ruins: Entangled Legacies of the Greek-Turkish Population Exchange. Click here to read Anthony Alessandrini's introduction and Elektra Kostopoulou's response.]
Humanism in Ruins is a significant, courageous, and timely book. The argument regarding the connections between what Aslı Iğsız calls “segregative biopolitics” (that is, racialized techniques of population management), liberalism, historicism, eugenicist thinking, and enlightenment and post enlightenment humanism, in the service of what are more or less violent forms of officially managed ethnic cleansing, is ever more significant and relevant. This is especially true when considered alongside the fact that in the case of the Greek-Turkish population transfer, this was meant to ensure peace. The Greek-Turkish population is in Igsiz’s presentation both a symptom of these historical tendencies and also lays the groundwork for subsequent movements.
Iğsız argues powerfully that different fields were mobilized in the aftermath of the Second World War to secure peace. Yet, what that actually entailed remains open to question given the mass population transfers, partitions, and apartheid that marked the era. Steps toward securing peace within the so-called free world in the early decades were interpreted as progress. Self-determination was configured as emancipation, simultaneously deploying segregative bioplitics to limit the mobility of undesirable groups through partitions or population transfers, all of which were steps taken presumably to secure peace and stability in Europe and beyond.
Such moments of broad but precise insight are enabled and earned by Iğsız’s representation of the afterlife of the paradoxes of the nexus she describes, and their effect on institutional and intellectual structures from UNESCO policies and statements, practices of the European Association for the Study of Refugee Problems (AER), and of the Association for the Study of the World Refugee Problem (AWR), to effects on sociological journals. Indeed, Iğsız’s analyses of the paradoxes and entanglements she describes form some of the most revealing and valuable readings in Humanism in Ruins. The book’s profound interdisciplinarity and her invaluable archival work, such as that in the United Nations archives, give serious heft to her analyses.
Equally powerful and significant is Iğsız’s contribution to undoing the religion versus secularism binary that has come to pervade so much of Middle Eastern and Islamic(ate) studies. The case of the secular Turkish state is often the explicitly invoked or, equally often, repressed referent in the way secularism is deployed or attacked. Iğsız’s analysis of what she calls the Islamic-Turkish synthesis, meticulously backed by interdisciplinary research, in the final section of the book, pulls us out of that cul-de-sac by asking for a more careful understanding of how the Turkish state produced a Muslim majority and then set out to “Turkify”—that is, assimilate and secularize—that majority. She also focuses on how neo-Ottomanism now functions in relation to the histories of liberal humanism, the aftermath of the exchange, and the state’s contradictory uses of conceptions of Islam, Muslims, and secularism.
My only critiques, perhaps just quibbles, are that sometimes the readings are too quick. For example, since there is quite a bit of contrapuntal reference to the fact that the anti-colonial struggles were unfolding at the same time as some of the events mentioned in the book, a slightly more elaborated engagement with the fact that anticolonial third worldists were also involved with the United Nations would have been useful. Moreover, sometimes there is a suggestion of guilt by association, as in her desire to show the entanglement of eugenicist and historicist humanist (Iğsız’s descriptor for racialized evolutionary narratives of progress), when she mentions how someone stayed in someone’s house and was related to them. My own vagueness is meant to indicate the effect of those moments.
Having said that, the book is significant for postcolonial studies and it is surprising that the Lausanne proceedings and the Greek-Turkish population exchange have not been taken up thoroughly in postcolonial work. In that vein, I would like to briefly engage some of the colonial and postcolonial entanglements of the population transfers and the proceedings at Lausanne that led to their formalization.
As I have written elsewhere at some length, the concern with transfer of populations extended far beyond discussions about Europe and its immediate borders. This is perhaps most surprisingly evident in B. R. Ambedkar's invocation of the Greek-Turkish and Greek-Bulgarian population transfers in Pakistan or the Partition of India, his 1940s meditation on the two-nation theory (the idea that Hindus and Muslims were two separate "nations" and thus needed separate states and homelands). The Dalit who had converted to Buddhism and was an architect of the Indian constitution wrote:
Those, who scoff at the idea of transfer of population, will do well to study the history of the minority problem, as it arose between Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria. If they do, they will find these countries found that the only way of solving the minorities problem lay in exchange of population. The task undertaken by the three countries was by no means a minor operation. It involved the transfer of some twenty million people from one habitat to another. But undaunted, the three shouldered the task and carried it to a successful end because they felt the considerations of communal peace must outweigh every consideration. That the transfer of minorities is the only lasting remedy for communal peace is beyond doubt.
Ambedkar was not unaware of the violence of that history and those transfers—he mentions Smyrna/Izmir and he also likens the leadership of the Muslim League to the German state protecting the Germans of the Sudetenland—and one wonders what “peace” designates here. M. A. Jinnah, the "founder" of Pakistan, had, of course, himself used the analogy between Indian Muslims and the Germans of the Sudentenland; "Just as the Sudeten Germans were not defenseless and survived the oppression and persecution for two decades so also the Mussalmans are not defenseless and cannot give you their national entity [sic?] and aspirations in this great continent." It is not clear who was meant to protect the Muslims in 1938, but after the 1940 resolution recognizing Pakistan as a political goal, one imagines the analogy was between the imminent nation and Germany, with those Muslims left behind in India imagined as the Sudeten Germans, which is indeed how Ambedkar seems to use it.
That the population transfers that followed the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires had a historical afterlife that spread far beyond East and Central Europe, the usual focus of studies on population transfers, and that they were indeed part of the discursive milieu and rhetoric that enabled Partition is, of course, evident from these examples, but Curzon’s presiding over the proceedings at Lausanne also antecedently connects this history to India. This becomes clear if we trace Curzon’s career backward from the conference at Lausanne over which he presided. For Curzon was viceroy of Bengal at the time of the soon-reversed Partition of Bengal in 1905. The reasons given were mostly those of administrative convenience but were also motivated by colonial techniques of population management and divide and rule, intended to weaken the power of Bengali nationalists by separating Muslims and Hindus into separate areas of majority. Curzon's political motives came wrapped in a language of violence and dismemberment:
The Bengalis who like to think themselves a nation, and who dream of a future when the English will have been turned out, and a Bengali babu will be installed in Government house, Calcutta, of course bitterly resent any disruption that will be likely to interfere with the realization of this dream. If we are weak enough to yield to their clamor now, we shall not be able to dismember or reduce Bengal again; and you will be cementing and solidifying on the eastern flank of India, a force already formidable, and certain to be a source of increasing trouble in the future.
Curzon did not forget, as Partha Chatterjee points out, the "other part of the colonial strategy: partition," which was meant in Curzon's words to "invest the Muhammadans in Eastern Bengal with a unity which they have not enjoyed since the days of the old Mussulman viceroys and kings." Perhaps most interesting here is the explicit connection between territorial division, fantasized as dismemberment, and the separation of peoples—as if the violence of "unmixing," the term attributed to Curzon, is displaced upon the land itself, enabling the imagining of a more bodily sundering. Of course, this double sundering of peoples and territory was central to colonialism and late imperial expansion.
Curzon’s relation to heritage and ruins is also significant. In an address to the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1900, Curzon, the viceroy of India, invoked the responsibility of the colonial state to the ruins, which were of course also monuments, of India. His address is a fairly stark instantiation of the rhetoric of the white man’s burden and of the responsibilities of imperial rescue—as it is the Christian government’s duty to rescue the monuments from a “local and ignorant population” just as it is from the occasional excess of militaristic English tastelessness that has led to the building “of barracks and messes and canteens in the fairy-like pavilions and courts and gardens of Shahjahan.” It is, he also says, “equally our duty to dig and discover, to classify, reproduce, and describe, to copy and decipher, and to cherish and conserve.”
However, the speech is perhaps most interesting in suggesting the explicit link between architectural and art history and archaeology and the Sanskrit studies of orientalists like William Jones: “Then [after the linguistic work] followed a period of research and monuments; the pen was supplemented by the spade, and, in succession, description, drawings, paintings, engravings, and in later days photographs and casts, gradually revealing to European eyes the unrifled quarries of Hindustan. In this generation of writers and scholars, special honor must be paid to two names.” Curzon goes on to mention the historian of architecture James Fergusson and the archaeologist Alexander Cunningham, who were crucial to the establishment of art history and archaeology and to the entanglement of raciology and discourses of ruins and preservation in India. Citing the religious impartiality of the Christian British government, he says about the architecture associated with each religion: “Each fills a chapter in Indian History. Each is a part of the heritage which Providence has committed to the custody of the ruling power.”. Heinrich Schliemann, who is discussed wonderfully by Iğsız in the section “Historicist Humanism, Civilization, and Heritage,” in which she traces the connections between Euro (and logo) centric humanist discourses on origins and civilizations and nationalist constructions in Turkey, was to dedicate his The Prehistoric Palace of Kings of Tiryns, the Results of the Latest Excavations to Fergusson in 1885.
A certain sort of (let us call it) “custodial humanism” comes to imprint the emergence of ethnicized and racialized religious identities, which are then deployed in the service of both empire and the purified nation. These entanglements await rigorous scholarly engagement and require a capacious interdisciplinary approach such as Iğsız’s. There is, of course, much more to say about the book, but as I have suggested far too briefly here, Humanism in Ruins is invaluable for those of us thinking about these entanglements and how to get beyond them in postcolonial studies.
 B. R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or the Partition of India (Bombay: Thackers Publishers, 1944), facsimile of third edition, loc. 1816 of 6104.
 Presidential address in Sindh Muslim League, Karachi, Oct 8, 1938 excerpts. Faisal Devji, Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea (London: Hurst & Co, 2013), 36-38.
 See Sumit Sarkar, The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal 1903-1908 (Hyderabad: Permanent Black, 1973, 2nd. ed. 2010) and Partha Chatterjee, "On Religious and Linguistic Nationalisms: The Second Partition of Bengal," Nation and Religion: Perspectives on Europe and Asia, eds. Peter van der Veer and Hartmut Lehmann (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).
 As quoted in Sarkar, The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal 1903-1908, loc 564 of 11729, Kindle edition.
 Chatterjee, "On Religious and Linguistic Nationalisms: The Second Partition of Bengal," 113.
 “Address to the Asiatic Society of Bengal,” Feb 7, 1900, in Lord Curzon in India: Being a Selection from His Speeches as Viceroy and Governor-General 1898-1905 (London: Macmillan and Co., 1906), 186.
 “Address,” 190.
 “Address,” 183.
 “Address,” 188.
 See Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial And Postcolonial India (New York, Columbia University Press, 2004), 3-42.
 “Address,” 185