Lecture: Subversive Tourism? Diaspora Armenians Visiting Turkey: An Illustrated Presentation by Anny Bakalian
Tue, August 23, 2011 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts
Doors open at 6:30pm
Diaspora tourism to ancestral homelands, also known as “root-tourism” or “heritage-tourism,” has become common among a wide variety of ethnic groups, but not until the 1990s did Armenian Americans organize tours to Eastern Turkey to visit ancestral villages and significant sites in Armenian history. Given contentious relations between Armenians and the Turkish state over the 1915 Genocide and deportations, the voyage is fraught with complex feelings. In tracing Armenian footprints in present-day Turkey, there are no maps, guidebooks or guides. Even when one reaches the village or town of one’s parents or grandparents, the traveler does not know where to look or how to make sense of what is there. Organized tours to “Historic Armenia” provide drivers who know the roads to their unmarked destination, specialized guides and communitas. Participants gain firsthand knowledge of the landscape and contemporary conditions and their Armenian history versus official Turkish version. During their trip, they perform a number rituals that include chanting Armenian prayers at the ruins of Sis monastery (present Kozan); renaming Diyarbakir Dikranagerd/Tigranakert and burying the photo of a father in the ruins of Surp Giragos Church in Dikranagerd; confronting memorials for Turks massacred by Armenians in Zeytun (present Suleymanli); or feeling sad and outraged when they see Ani’s medieval churches crumbling due to neglect. Given the rapidly changing dynamics between Armenians and Turks, the journey may be seen as a rite of passage, potentially healing personally and collectively.
Anny Bakalian’s first “pilgrimage” was to Cilicia (Kayseri, Sis, Adana, Musa Dagh, Marash, Ainteb, and Kharpert) in 2009. In this illustrated Powerpoint presentation, she relates the experiences of her group’s visit to Diyarbakir, the Lake Van region, Kars, Ani and the eastern coast of the Black Sea in June 2011. Most interesting, she will describe how Surp Giragos Church was refurbished recently thanks to funding from the local municipality and diaspora Armenians and the warm welcome they received from the Kurdish mayors of Diyarbakir.
Anny Bakalian, Ph.D., is Associate Director of both the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center (MEMEAC) and the Master’s program in Middle Eastern Studies at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY). She is the co-author, with Mehdi Bozorgmehr, of Backlash 9/11: Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans Respond (University of California Press, 2009). This book was the runner up (honorable mention) for the 2010 Thomas and Znaniecki award by the International Migration section of the American Sociological Association. Bakalian is the leading scholar of the Armenian American experience, her publications include Armenian Americans: From Being to Feeling Armenian (Transaction Press, 1993, republished in 2011). Dr. Bakalian has been on the board of directors of Alwan for the Arts since 2003. She also serves on the board of the Arab American Family Support Center (AAFSC).
Last updated: 2011-08-01 17:01:11
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