Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 173–194 | Cite as

Cultural Tourism and Complex Histories: The Armenian Akhtamar Church, the Turkish State and National Identity

  • Defne Över


This article explores the ways states manage their national identity through cultural tourism policy. It draws on archival and ethnographic data on the opening of the Armenian Akhtamar Church in Turkey to cultural tourism and religious service for the first time after 95 years. Based on narrative evidence from the disputes among various actors with conflictual constructions of history, I find that states can use cultural tourism to produce multiple articulations of national identity and govern these articulations in accordance with their interests. The presence of multiple stages of tourism policy and the time and space bounded nature of interaction at each stage allow for the production of multiple images in different interaction situations. At the same time, the discourse of economic development associated with cultural tourism allows state actors to insulate themselves from criticism in disputes over national identity. The article shows how states use cultural tourism to create national identity even in the case of complex histories.


Cultural tourism National identity Turkey 



I wish to acknowledge the financial support provided by the Department of Sociology and the Graduate School of Cornell University. I am grateful to Mabel Berezin, Sinem Adar, Kyle Albert, Benjamin Cornwell, Fatma Müge Göçek, Ebru Erdem-Akçay, Vangelis Kechriotis, Charles Kurzman, David Strang, Richard Swedberg, Cihan Tuğal, Frederick Wherry, and Alexa Yesukevich for their valuable comments at various stages of preparing this article. Earlier versions of the article were presented at the 2011 Sociology Research Practicum of Cornell University, the 2011 Annual World Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities, the Middle East Sociology Working Group of ASA 2012 and the 2012 Forum of International Sociological Association. I thank the participants for their comments. David Smilde and the reviewers are also due thanks for their careful reading and constructive suggestions on the manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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