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Journal of Modern Greek Studies 18.1 (2000) 199-208



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Essay Review

The Cyprus Problems

Stephanos Pesmazoglou


Vangelis Calotychos, editor, Cyprus and its People: Nation, Identity, and Experience in an Unimaginable Community, 1955-1997. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 1998. Pp. 336. $79.00.

Together with India, Lebanon, and the dis-United Kingdom, Cyprus has been held up as a prime example of the unsustainability of multinational federal states and of common nationhood. Included in this same group of states in the last decade have been Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, two states that in past decades were held up as examples of exactly the opposite: i.e., the success of multiethnic federations. The consequence has been considerable pessimism about the idea of federalism as a means to accommodate religious, linguistic, and cultural differences while safeguarding common citizenship. It is my contention that instead of replacing bipolar political or journalistic constructions of the issues involved, the academic literature of both nations reasserted them. "The Cyprus problem" in the post-colonial bibliography has been tackled--with some exceptions--as an issue in international relations (specifically Middle Eastern politics and more narrowly Greek-Turkish relations). Political, legal and strategic aspects and their repercussions have been examined exhaustively (most recently in the 1999 volume on Cyprus edited by Clement Dodd, which although subtitled "new perspectives," is still based on narrowly-defined political and strategic aspects of the issue). Most of these publications are marked by competitive national claims and apologetic nationalist ideologies. The volume of essays edited by Calotychos, which emerged from a conference held at Harvard University in 1994, is one of the rare examples of studies on Cyprus that have recently begun to escape from narrow legalism and parochial ethnocentrism. Drawing from a broad spectrum of the social sciences and the humanities, the essays constitute a point of reference which, contrary to mainstream idées recues, holds out some hope that a multinational, multi-cultural civil society in Cyprus is possible after all.

Cyprus can be seen as the eastern outpost of the Mediterranean Archipelago. As such, it is part of an immense patchwork, a Mediterranean fresco of ethnicities, religions, and languages, instead of a precisely delineated range of nation-states. States divide the Mediterranean into East and West, North and South. Instead, the patchwork provides multiple overlapping boundaries comprised by a continuum of communities dispersed all over mare nostrum. Before being carved out, lines of demarcation, frontiers, and borders are first drawn in [End Page 199] our minds. If collective mentalities are fashioned to function within a chaotic situation of conflict, and if thinking is equated with weapons, then no communication or dialogue has any meaning. Calotychos's volume is a rejection of such premises. Its 330 pages are divided into four sections with 17 chapters written by 19 authors and an editor's introduction. The major preoccupation of the volume, explicitly or implicitly is, of course, political: the desire for a peaceful, permanent settlement. Strictly political considerations are tackled in part 2 ("Political Possibilities") which is the shortest section of the book. But politics and ideology in the broadest sense permeate every vein of this book. The other three sections deal with Cypriot identity-formation (part one), the loci of culture (part 3) and the crucial importance of psychological considerations in examining sociopolitical and economic perspectives (part 4). Ten of the contributors are of Greek-Cypriot and Greek origin, three are of Turkish-Cypriot or Turkish origin, and the rest are foreign students working on diverse aspects of Cypriot culture. Most, if not all, are of an Anglo-Saxon academic background and more than half are active in research and/or teaching in America.

As Calotychos declares in his introduction, the volume is truly inter- and intra-disciplinary. The traditional disciplines of political science, international relations, sociology, anthropology, literary theory and criticism, and psychiatry are invoked, together with their more recent hybrids such as political sociology, historical sociology, political history, social psychology, and cultural anthropology. All these disciplines combine with perspectives drawn from area studies and thematic or problem-oriented studies (media and communication studies, and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 199-208
Launched on MUSE
2000-05-01
Open Access
No
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