Universiteit Leiden

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Lecture | LIAS Lunch Talk Series

A ‘Little Armenia’ in the Caribbean

Wednesday 17 May 2023

1.04 (Verbarium)


First held in 1998 with only a couple of hundred Armenians in attendance, in its last incarnation in 2020, the Armenian Heritage Cruise (AHC)— the “Original Armenian Cruise” —hosted over 1,000 participants coming from over ten countries including the United States, Canada, Argentina, Venezuela, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, France, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Australia, and Armenia. Based on on-site participant observation and twenty open-ended interviews with cruise attendees between 2007–2015 and the chair of AHC committee in 2018, in addition to the analysis of the AHC promotional and published material (2007–2020), this talk, focusing on a recently published article in the journal Diaspora, argues that the annual AHC is a simulacrum of the organizers’ and participants’ fantasies of Armenia (Baudrillard 1994). The simulacrum, an exclusive and serviced tropical fantasy in the middle of the Caribbean, catered to passengers with buying power who consumed the messages of an idealized, “better” Armenia. It likewise “freed” Armenians from a marginalization they claimed to experience in the communities where they usually live, even as these places were also a source of pride, had established Armenian institutions, or were even in the “real” Armenia.

You can access the full article here.

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About the speaker

Dr Tsolin Nalbantian is associate professor of modern Middle East history at Leiden University. She is the author of Armenians Beyond Diaspora: Making Lebanon Their Own (Edinburgh University Press, 2020) and coeditor of Practicing Sectarianism: Archival and Ethnographic Interventions on Lebanon (Stanford University Press, 2022). She is also the series coeditor of Critical, Connected Histories (Leiden University Press).

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