Friday, February 03, 2006

Cyprus fieldwork: Cypriots' cultural heritage treatments' presentations

Cyprus fieldwork notes extracts

This early morning entry focuses upon presentations of Greek Cypriots' and Turkish Cypriots' treatments of what is considered the other's cultural heritage. Having bought all of the English language newspapers, partly to keep me up-to-date and partly to help me find a place to stay in Lefkosia, I woke up early and continued reading them.

At 5.55am on the 8th of January, I pondered:
How much attention should I pay to Greek and Turkish Cypriots' land claims? Little, I suppose, as they're relatively simple matters of title.
Having one of my brief, but recurrent moments of worry about how innovative and productive my contribution to the resolution of Cypriot conflicts over cultural heritage could be, I asked myself,
Does it matter if I do two-thirds of my fieldwork in Cyprus, but two-thirds of my thesis on the Ilisu Dam Project?
Moving on to consider the different communities' and authorities' actions, I wondered,
How do I avoid relatively one-sided criticism of the Turkish Cypriot government's treatment of cultural property, when the Greek Cypriot government has played such a clever political game?
Reading it back, I felt that reference to the Greek Cypriot authorities' treatment of Turkish Cypriot cultural heritage as a "clever political game" was exceedingly cynical.

This is particularly so given Greek nationalists did not match the Turkish nationalists' intensive and extensive acts of desecration and destruction upon "Greek Cypriot" religious and community sites. Greek nationalists, however, have made and continue to make much political capital from Turkish nationalists' treatment of "their" cultural property.

The fact that their treatment of "Turkish Cypriot" religious and community sites has been (albeit significantly) better than Turkish nationalists' treatment of "theirs", nevertheless, says more about the Turkish nationalists than it does about the Greek nationalists.

The southern Cypriot community and authorities, moreover, have had legal recognition, international trade, investment and aid and non-governmental organisations' (NGOs') help, which has made protection of all communities' cultural heritage not only financially affordable, but also politically necessary.

The northern Cypriot community and authorities, by contrast, have lacked legal recognition, significant trade, investment and aid and NGOs' intervention, outside of Turkey's support, which has made protection of all communities' cultural heritage not only financially difficult, but also politically unrewarding.

Wrestling with how to present the different individuals', groups' and communities' actions, I considered,
How much of the treatment of cultural heritage was state-run or state-led, how much was nationalists' and others' actions and how much was poverty-driven?

Would it be right to say that by perpetuating the economic privations of the North, the South is, if not engineering, then engendering, the conditions in which what it considers to be its own cultural heritage will be damaged and destroyed?

Still, even then, those Turkish Cypriots, even if looting in dire poverty, appear to be selecting against Greek Orthodox cultural heritage and so introducing an unjustifiable bias.

Moreover, realistically, it is not solely the use or protection that militates against Turkish Cypriot looting of "Turkish" or "Islamic" cultural property, but an affinity with "Turkish Cypriot" cultural heritage and an aggression towards "Greek Cypriot" cultural heritage.
Still worried by the apprent one-sidedness of the criticism, I exclaimed, "Lucky that Matsakis loots too!" and noted that "the Greek soldier asked, 'how can you steal what you own? How can you steal what is yours?'"

Then, contemplating his construction of community and property, which collapsed Greekness and Cypriotness together and assimilated Turkishness within Cypriotness (so what was Turkish was Cypriot, what was Cypriot was Greek Cypriot and what was Greek Cypriot was Greek), I queried,
Is it incorrect or hypocritical of me to argue that cultural heritage in Cyprus is Cypriot, rather than Greek (Cypriot) or Turkish (Cypriot), when I'd (probably) defend descendant communities' control over those artefacts and those sites?

When discussing, I must clarify whether my partners claim primary rights over the cultural property as members of descendant communities within Cypriot society (Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot cultural heritage) or whether they deny the artefacts' and sites' Cypriotness and claim absolute rights over their community's and society's cultural property.
Trying to distinguish the possible nationalist constructions of community and cultural property ownership and stewardship, I wrote:
e.g. Greek cultural heritage in Cyprus, Cypriot cultural heritage and Turkish cultural heritage in Cyprus, or Turkish cultural heritage in Cyprus (the first and last appropriating Cyprus as Greek or Turkish, the second [not necessarily, but, in this case, following the Greek soldier's construction] subsuming Greekness within Cypriotness and expelling Turkishness from Cypriotness, all somehow Hellenising or Turkifying).

No comments:

Post a Comment