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HGS Major Samantha Brault Publishes Paper in Undergraduate Research Journal

Holocaust and Genocide Studies major Samantha Brault
Holocaust and Genocide Studies major Samantha Brault

Sometimes, an obscure tidbit of information piques your curiosity, and you just have to know more. And sometimes, that curiosity opens exciting new doors. That’s just what happened to just-turned-junior Holocaust and Genocide Studies major Samantha Brault when she first heard mention of Aurora Mardiganian in Dr. Alexis Herr’s Armenian Genocide class.

Brault, of South Hadley MA, became fascinated with the story of Mardiganian, a young Armenian who lived through incredible hardship at the hands of the Ottoman Turks and managed to escape to America. With the help of a screenwriter, she published Ravished Armenia, a memoir of the genocide that brought much attention to the plight of the Armenians. The story was later made into a silent film, of which only 20 minutes survives today. Dr. Larry Benaquist, who showed what remains of the film in Dr. Herr’s class, noted that Mardiganian “was terribly exploited in the process of the film (and book) production.”

“Dr. Benaquist had given a brief lecture on Mardiganian and I was struck by the obscurity of her story,” Brault explained. “He told us about what she experienced as a genocide survivor, and what happened to her when she came to America. I realized that there was much more to the story, and I felt like I could really uncover something in this research that was largely unknown to me and my classmates.”

She started her investigation as a research-paper assignment for Dr. Herr’s course, and so impressed Dr. Herr with her scholarship that Dr. Herr helped her polish the paper. It’s been published as ”The Barbarians of Hollywood”: The Exploitation of Aurora Mardiganian by the American Film Industry (PDF format) in Butler University’s Butler Journal of Undergraduate Research.

“It is a remarkable achievement and a wonderful reflection of Sam’s in depth research on the Armenian Genocide,” Dr. Herr said.

And Brault’s remarkable achievement also earned her the 2016 Charles Hildebrandt Holocaust and Genocide Studies Award, given in recognition of excellence in Holocaust or Genocide Studies.

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