Books & Articles
A HOUSE IN THE HOMELAND:
PLACES OF ANCESTRAL MEMORY
A powerful examination of soulful journeys made to recover memory and recuperate stolen pasts in the face of unspeakable histories.
Survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 took refuge across the globe. Traumatized by unspeakable brutalities, the idea of returning to their homeland was unthinkable. But decades later, some children and grandchildren felt compelled to travel back, having heard stories of family wholeness in beloved homes and of cherished ancestral towns and villages once in Ottoman Armenia, today in the Republic of Turkey. Hoping to satisfy spiritual yearnings, this new generation called themselves pilgrimsand their journeys, pilgrimages.
Carel Bertram joined scores of these pilgrims on over a dozen pilgrimages, and amassed accounts from hundreds more who made these journeys. In telling their stories, A House in the Homeland documents how pilgrims encountered the ancestral house, village, or town as both real and metaphorical centerpieces of family history. Bertram recounts the moving, restorative connections pilgrims made, and illuminates how the ancestral house, as a spiritual place, offers an opening to a wellspring of humanity in sites that might otherwise be defined solely by tragic loss.
As an exploration of the powerful links between memory and place, house and homeland, rupture and continuity, these Armenian stories reflect the resilience of diaspora in the face of the savage reaches of trauma, separation, and exile in ways that each of us, whatever our history, can recognize.
IMAGINGING THE TURKISH HOUSE:
"Houses can become poetic expressions of longing for a lost past, voices of a lived present, and dreams of an ideal future."
Carel Bertram discovered this truth when she went to Turkey in the 1990s and began asking people about their memories of "the Turkish house." The fondness and nostalgia with which people recalled the distinctive wooden houses that were once ubiquitous throughout the Ottoman Empire made her realize that "the Turkish house" carries rich symbolic meaning. In this delightfully readable book, Bertram considers representations of the Turkish house in literature, art, and architecture to understand why the idea of the house has become such a potent signifier of Turkish identity.
Bertram's exploration of the Turkish house shows how this feature of Ottoman culture took on symbolic meaning in the Turkish imagination as Turkey became more Westernized and secular in the early decades of the twentieth century. She shows how artists, writers, and architects all drew on the memory of the Turkish house as a space where changing notions of spirituality, modernity, and identity—as well as the social roles of women and the family—could be approached, contested, revised, or embraced during this period of tumultuous change.
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Related to A HOUSE IN THE HOMELAND
DINNER IN THE HOMELAND: Memory, Food and the Armenian Diaspora, in Memory, Migration and Travel.
Sabine Marschall, ed. Routledge: 189ff. 2018.
ARMENIAN MIRROR-SPECTATOR, July 26, 2022
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