Melissa Bilal is the Associate Director of the UCLA Armenian Music Program and Lecturer in the Department of Ethnomusicology. Previously a Distinguished Research Fellow at CNES, before UCLA, she was an Assistant Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the American University of Armenia, where she continues serving as a core team member developing the Gender Studies minor program.
In this talk, Dr. Bertram describes how, with luggage filled with stories heard from their own family members, including those transmitted through the songs they sang, the dances they danced, the foods they made, and even through their screams in the night, pilgrims understood that they were visiting a sacred landscape, albeit one violated by the profane. In this fraught yet transcendent place, pilgrims invent a series of rituals so that village by village, town by town, or even house by house, they ritually connect with their own ancestors, and, as they stand on their own ancestral land, allow them to be a part of their personal story in the present.
Dr. Lerna Ekmekcioglu and Dr. Melissa Bilal, through photographs, letters, and pages of sheet music, follow the story of a friendship between two Armenian women in Istanbul that endured the hardships of WWI, the Armenian Genocide, and early republican Turkey’s repressive minority politics.