Carel Bertram is an Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities. She receiver her MA in Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley and her PhD in Art and Architectural History at UCLA. Her field is urban history and historical consciousness in the Islamic world. Dr. Bertram asks, “how do we find out how individuals and groups understood their world?” She answers this through the lens of the Humanities with historically contextualized studies of cultural production and representation. What did historical actors produce (art, architecture, literature, poetry, and, especially places); what did these mean to their makers and, more importantly, how were these experienced over time? Thus, Prof. Bertram studies art, such as codex and manuscript illumination and illustration (and what the reader might have known and felt) and architecture (how are buildings are used and even romanticized so that they become iconic), and particularly the complex place of the city as it is built, walked, filmed and remembered. Some of these ideas form the core of her book Imagining the Turkish House: Collective Visions of Home, published in 2008 with University of Texas Press. Her book was subsequently translated into Turkish and published in Turkey.

Prof. Bertram teaches classes on the Cultural Expression in Islam, as well as courses on Istanbul and Jerusalem. Other cities of interest: Sarajevo (Bosnia), Damascus (Syria), Amasya and Safranbolu (Turkey) and Vienna (Austria). She is working to offer a study-abroad project that would give SFSU students an opportunity to study Turkish history through field work in an in-tact Ottoman town in Anatolia.

Moreover, Prof. Bertram has extensively researched Muslims, Jews and Christians in Bosnia, and is currently studying Diaspora Armenians from Anatolia, investigating their histories and historic consciousness as they make pilgrimages to the lost homes of their families.


We generally speak about tourism in terms of what the tourist wants, or, even what the
tourist has been made to want. Here I suggest that the most deeply felt outcome, and the most
remembered tourist experiences may be those that are unexpected. Although these unexpected
satisfactions might be idiosyncratic, or personally singular, they also emerge as a distinctive
category that are place related. One space that offers these unexpectedly resonant, even
existential experiences are streets, neighborhoods, and especially the houses encountered by
tourists in geographies that span major towns to small villages.
Although tourist destinations are frequently focused on places “as a whole,” or on their
major monuments or historically important buildings or complexes, I suggest why it is the
domestic and the intimate that can offer the deepest existential meanings. Grounding my
argument in theories of memory, space and place [Bachelard, Eliade] and using my own
research on memory, place and the Ottoman Turkish house [Bertram, 2008] as well
ethnographic studies on emigres who return to the places of their ancestral homes and villages
I discuss how the domestic and the quotidian connects the tourist to something outside
of himself, yet at the same time activates something profoundly interior that makes their travel
experiences into retroactive pilgrimages. I call them retroactive pilgrimages because, although
the tourist may have no defined spiritual goal, the power of these places recalls to memory or
imagination something deep at the center of the modern individual. As an invitation to dream,
these domestic spaces allow the tourist give these places overlays of meanings that they bring
from their cultural and personal pasts; allowing them, in fact, to feel these places as a
“charismatic nexus” [Cohen, Shils] of their ultimate values. James would call this added value,
“the mysterious plus.” This unexpected but powerful experience may continue to reverberate
and thus be long remembered. I suggest, in fact, that, sensitive to the politics of heritage
conservation, including museum houses, and to the economies of cultural distillations and
appropriation through craft and souvenir industries, the largest town to the smallest village has
the opportunity to offer this experience as their gift to the tourist.