Friday, February 17, 2006

Cyprus fieldwork: differentiation; community; identity

At 3.15pm on the 17th of January 2006, I was distracted from my intended work by some fascinating readings from Loring Danforth (1991) on psychotherapy's role in social conflict resolution and from John Borneman (1992) on social differentiation in the divided Berlin and its interplay with community and identity.

Loring Danforth (1991: 98) recorded that:
"the Anastenaria... is a ritual system of psychotherapy that is often effective in treating illnesses which in Western psychiatric terms would be considered psychogenic in nature... can often restructure a patient's social reality in such a way as to resolve the conflicts responsible.
I noted that it was an "article about the relationships between mother, son and daughter-in-law (from each point in the triangle of interrelationships), but reminds me of the newspaper article calling for a Cypriot Truth and Reconciliation Commission".

At 3.45pm, I began making notes on divided communities living in divided cities. John Borneman (1992: 21) observed that:
Minimally until the building of the wall, then sporadically thereafter, Berliners were squeezed by a continuous vacillation between a policy of abgrenzungspolitik, demarcation, and a policy of integration: either you are my opposite or you become who I already am. Everyday life intersected with politics everywhere in Berlin: both states began contesting all action domains.
At that point I asked myself, "who chose Nikosia?", which was, as I understood it, the name given to the city by the Franks when they ruled the island, because they couldn't pronounce its Cypriot name. I still find it at least unusual that, I think, the United Nations chose to use the name given to the city by a previous occupying power.

I noted that "every Greek Cypriot uses 'Lefkosia'", pronounced "Lefkosha", as it is in Turkish Cypriot/Cypriot Turkish, so, unless it were to guard against Greek nationalist promotion of the continental Greek pronunciation, "Lefkosia", which is distinct from and exclusive of the united, Cypriot pronunciation, I cannot understand internationals' adoption of "Nikosia".

Before I carried on, in relation to Borneman's (1992) work, I asked, "is there a similar integration-demarcation with 'Cypriots', 'Greek Cypriots' and 'Turkish Cypriots'?"

Borneman (1992: 22) continued:
The rather clear and opposed political self-representations of the two halves were initially much less clear and oppositional in the everyday practices of the populace. Yet the odd fixation during the fifties upon the imagined Iron Curtain, described in the account of Gabriel Muller, became a self-fulfilled prophecy.

The building of the "real wall" by the East Germans, then, should have come as no surprise; it was, in fact, a realisation of what already had been a divided community in the political imagination of the residents. Yet those imagined differences, it should be stressed, were more ideological than political in nature.

Only after 1961 were the two halves completely demarcated into moieties - ideologically, politically, and in praxis. Thereafter membership in the political system became the a priori legal principle of classification, taking precedence over all other memberships.
I queried whether the Nikosias were different from the Berlins, "as ethnic identity is still prior to identity as citizen, identity as member of ethnic group still comes before that as member of political community".

At 4.10pm, I saw a close affinity between the Nikosias and the Berlins as I transcribed one of Borneman's (1992: 25) comments:
The nature of differentiation between the cities changed over time, determined in large part by state goals, though the surreality of it did not. During my fieldwork in Berlin several aspects of the changing modes of relationship between state policy and everyday practice seemed most perverse.

Official East German maps of its territory did not color in West Berlin. Their maps of subway and street-car lines showed West Berlin as a self-contained blank, diminished in size with no streets and no entry points from the GDR.

West Berlin maps, on the other hand, reduced East Berlin, wherein the old city centre lies, to the margin of the larger city, decentred but still connected to the whole; the territorial boundary between the two halves was but lightly marked.
At that point, I noted the "surreality of the (Greek) Cypriot Tourism Organisation (CTO) choosing to use maps from 1998 and to give them to tourists to (dis)orientate themselves with, when they are from before opening up and when then (and now) blank out the North as an 'area inaccessible because of the Turkish occupation'".

(At 4.40pm, I worried, "does 'publication' of the blog mean subsequent 'significant' use of the material on it (in my thesis, etc.) would constitute plagiarism?")

Borneman, J. 1992: Belonging in the two Berlins: Kin, state, nation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Danforth, L. 1991: "The resolution of conflict through song in Greek ritual therapy". In Loizos, P and Papataxiarchis, E, (Eds.). Contested identities: Gender and kinship in modern Greece, 98-113. Oxford: Princeton University Press.

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