- Cyprus and Its Places of Desire: Cultures of Displacement Among Greek and Turkish Refugees by Lisa Dikomitis
In an ethnographic account of Cyprus at the edge of the sociopolitical transition manifested after the opening of the Cypriot border (the so called Green Line), Lisa Dikomitis works with Greek and Turkish Cypriot refugees who were forced to abandon their houses and villages during the turbulent decades of the 1960s and 1970s. It is a study of the material and symbolic importance that a single village located at the foot of the Pentadaktylos mountains holds for its former and current inhabitants. Before the Turkish military invasion of 1974 that displaced thousands of Greek Cypriots to the south, this village was named Larnakas tis Lapithou (Larnakas of Lapithos), and it was inhabited solely by Greek Cypriots. After 1974, however, the village was given the Turkish name Kozan and has been inhabited by Turkish Cypriot refugees, who left their villages in the Pafos district in southern Cyprus to resettle in the northern part of the divide under the protection of the Turkish army. Thus this account focuses on the collective experiences and the cultural memory of both refugee groups (namely the Larnatsjiotes and the Kozanlilar), who have strived to remake their lives and communities in their new homes, while at the same time keeping their former villages and houses in their minds and in their hearts.
The author provides from the beginning a reflexive account on the ambivalent position of an anthropologist conducting fieldwork “at home” (24). Even if Cyprus is not where the researcher grew up, the island was present during her childhood as “home,” both through the summer visits to her Cypriot family and in the vivid descriptions of her Greek Cypriot father about Larnakas, his “village in paradise” (1–5). Thus the identity of the author as a “halfie” (22–23)—half Greek Cypriot, half Belgian—a term that she draws from Lila Abu-Lughod (1991), is well positioned and contextualized in the research field, providing a balanced account of the ways in which her identity acted both as a facilitator and as an obstacle during her fieldwork among relatives and non-relatives Cypriot refugees. As she explains, when someone conducts fieldwork among relatives and close friends and is warmly welcomed among them, she gains an immediate access to informants (24). However, following Neni Panourgiá (1995) and her fieldwork at (her) home in Athens, Dikomitis also recognizes that the stakes are high for the researcher because there is always a risk of “bruising the personal relationship” (24–25) with the loved ones.
Dikomitis studies a central issue of the so-called Cyprus conflict in a period during which Cyprus went through an important sociopolitical transition. Both the 2003 easing of restrictions by the Turkish Cypriot regime on crossing the Cypriot border, which allowed people to visit the “other side” after nearly thirty years (the author uses the “other side” to mark both a geographical and a sociocultural line of crossing; 61), and the 2004 referendum on the United Nations Annan Plan for the solution of the Κυπριακό (Kypriako, Cyprus Problem) were developments that changed the sociopolitical landscape of Cyprus. The author’s account of the different Cypriot refugee understandings of their identity in relation to their “places of desire” (14–20) is provided in the aftermath of the 2003–2004 period. Thus the author had the privilege not only to study both refugee groups but also to accompany her informants during their first [End Page 397] emotional visits to their former villages. Moreover, she provides a structured outline of the changes in the attitudes of her informants after crossing the border became a reality and even an everyday routine for some groups of Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In this sense, it is a study of the “new Cyprus,” as Rebecca Bryant (2010) has called the country in the post-2004 era, which together with other works (Papadakis 2005, Constantinou 2007) points...