Yiannis Papadakis, Nicos Peristianis & Gisela Welz (Eds), Divided Cyprus: Modernity, History, and an Island in Conflict

By Wall, John | Journal of Cyprus Studies, January 15, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Yiannis Papadakis, Nicos Peristianis & Gisela Welz (Eds), Divided Cyprus: Modernity, History, and an Island in Conflict


Wall, John, Journal of Cyprus Studies


Yiannis Papadakis, Nicos Peristianis & Gisela Welz (eds), Divided Cyprus: Modernity, History, and an Island in Conflict (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006) ISBN 0-253-21851-9 (Paperback); 235 pp; 15.99 [pounds sterling].

The title Divided Cyprus would suggest a collection of essays discussing history, power politics and social structure either side of Cyprus's so-called green-line and strategies for co-operation between the two sides. In fact, this is not the case. Certainly Yael Navaro-Yashin's contribution, "De-ethnicizing the Ethnography of Cyprus" explores a set of issues that pertain directly to political and social life in Northern Cyprus, while Yiannis Papadakis's "Disclosure and Censorship in Divided Cyprus" straddles the "dead zone", as the green line is known to Greek Cypriots. Rebecca Bryant, in "On the Condition of Postcoloniality in Cyprus", admirably weaves together a dialectics of economics, imperialism, education and ethno-national identity amongst Turkish and Greek Cypriots during the period of British rule. Otherwise, the "other half" of "divided Cyprus" is present only through its absence.

I do not mention this in order to castigate the contributors with the imperative of liberal inclusiveness. Nor is it merely a statistical problem that might be redressed through the discipline of the quota. The strange absences are rather the performative expression of the pathology of Cyprus. Papadakis refers succinctly to this state of affairs as "ethnic autism" (Papadakis 68, 78). The essays collectively and individually articulate the processes by which such division is negotiated at the level of everyday life mainly in Greek Cypriot society (Peristianis 104, 105).

Another reason that may explain the strange absences of this volume is that the conference out of which it grew took place in September 2001, well before April 2003, when the borders opened. Thus the "divide" of Divided Cyprus is militarily, economically, socially and psychologically obtrusive according to a number of modalities, one of which involves intellectual life. For example, the methodological approach common to all the contributions of this publication is anthropological, a discipline that is not widely practiced in the intellectual life of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). In the light of this observation, it may be said that anthropology in this volume is subject matter as well as methodology.

Anthropology does not concern itself with the veracity of a certain discourse, or its lack. Thus the aim of the anthropological method is the investigation of historical discourse outside the disciplinary parameters used by the professional historian. The intellectual justification for such an approach is the necessity of understanding the central and decisive role of competing historical discourses in Cyprus. As the editors observe in the introductory essay, "[h]istory [in Cyprus] emerges as a transcendental moral force that dictates the morally (that is, politically) desirable future, thus being imbued with primary agency that is simultaneously denied to living social actors" (6). Given that the nation state constitutes the political, military, economic and cultural basis for entry into the international system, the reinvention or invention of national histories, with all their contradictions, is thereby central to any engagement with modernity, an argument that underpins Divided Cyprus (5, 6). Accordingly, anthropology focuses on the narrative structure of these histories, exploring the way in which they are integrated, reproduced, transformed and rejected at the level of individual and local agency. In this way, anthropology seeks to bring into relief the subjective and discursive mechanisms of historical discourse, thereby, it may be speculated, shedding some light on the otherwise impenetrable fractures that characterize the body politic of Cyprus, and by implication, the "fracture management" of professional politics on the island (Papadakis 67, 68).

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