Lecture: Subversive Tourism? Armenian Pilgrimage to Historic Cilicia

Wed, August 5, 2009 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Free and Open to the Public

Many Armenian-Americans have grandparents and great-grandparents who were born in areas of historic Armenia in present-day Turkey. Cilicia is the western region of their historic homeland, where a nobleman from Greater Armenia founded the Rubenian dynasty in the 11th century along the Mediterranean. King Ruben and others who followed him were staunch allies of Crusaders from Europe. These kingdoms came to be known as Lesser Armenia.

When Cilicia fell to the Ottomans in the early 16th century, most of the Armenian population was absorbed into the Empire. They were an integral part of Ottoman society, with vital contributions to its commerce, industry, architecture, arts, and culture. The Armenian population was decimated by the pogroms and genocide in 1895-96 and 1915-22. By 1923, the only significant Armenian population that remained in Turkey was in Constantinople/Istanbul.

The names of the villages and towns of their ancestors are vivid in the memories and personal histories of Genocide survivors. Yet, few have ventured to trace their roots there. This presentation documents the pilgrimage in May-June 2009 of 22 Armenian-Americans to the birthplace of their parents and grandparents in Cicilia and environs. The trip was sponsored by the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR). Professor Richard Hovannisian was the scholarly guide, putting the landscape and places in a historical context that has disappeared from guides to Turkey.

Dr. Bakalian's presentation documents photographically this experience of Subversive Tourism - and reactions locals had to this group of Armenian tourists - which for its participants was socially, spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally transformative.

About the speaker:

Anny Bakalian is the Associate Director of the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center (MEMEAC) at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is an acknowledged authority on Armenian Americans, and the author of two books,"Armenian-Americans: From Being to Feeling Armenian" (1993), and, with Mehdi Bozorgmehr, "Backlash 9/11 – Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans Respond" (2009).

Last updated: 2009-07-19 15:52:32

Historic Armenian  house in Aintab.
Historic Armenian house in Aintab.

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