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The Past in Pieces

The Past in Pieces: Belonging in the New Cyprus

Rebecca Bryant
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Past in Pieces
    Book Description:

    On April 23, 2003, to the surprise of much of the world, the ceasefire line that divides Cyprus opened. The line had partitioned the island since 1974, and so international media heralded the opening of the checkpoints as a historic event that echoed the fall of the Berlin Wall. As in the moment of the Wall's collapse, cameras captured the rush of Cypriots across the border to visit homes unwillingly abandoned three decades earlier. It was a euphoric moment, and one that led to expectations of reunification. But within a year Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected at referendum a United Nations plan to reunite the island, despite their Turkish compatriots' support for the plan. In The Past in Pieces, anthropologist Rebecca Bryant explores why the momentous event of the opening has not led Cyprus any closer to reunification, and indeed in many ways has driven the two communities of the island further apart. This chronicle of the "new Cyprus" tells the story of the opening through the voices and lives of the people of one town that has experienced conflict. Over the course of two years, Bryant studied a formerly mixed town in northern Cyprus in order to understand both experiences of life together before conflict and the ways in which the dissolution of that shared life is remembered today. Tales of violation and loss return from the past to shape meanings of the opening in daily life, redefining the ways in which Cypriots describe their own senses of belonging and expectations of the political future. By examining the ways the past is rewritten in the present, Bryant shows how even a momentous opening may lead not to reconciliation but instead to the discovery of new borders that may, in fact, be the real ones.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0666-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. The Sorrow of Unanswered Questions
    (pp. vii-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION: A Prelude to Mourning
    (pp. 1-16)

    On April 23, 2003, to the surprise of much of the world, the border that divides Cyprus opened. The ceasefire line that partitions the island had been impenetrable to most Cypriots since 1974, so international media heralded the opening of the checkpoints as a momentous event that echoed the fall of the Berlin Wall. As in the moment of that wall’s collapse, cameras captured the rush of Cypriots across the line to visit homes unwillingly abandoned three decades earlier. It was a euphoric moment, one filled with the tears of return to lost homes and the laughter of reunions. Old...

  6. ONE Paths of No Return
    (pp. 17-38)

    Vasillis and Maroulla Kyriakou live today among olive groves and rolling pastures in a former Turkish village in the Paphos district in the southwest of Cyprus. In the winter, rains wash the land in a fragile verdancy; by late spring, the grass has withered, leaving only dun-colored earth and chalky rock. Thirty years ago, the couple hastily constructed a set of rooms here, a temporary place of refuge after the flight from their home in northern Cyprus and the fighting that had engulfed it. They built the compound in the old village style, not as a single house but as...

  7. TWO The Anxieties of an Opening
    (pp. 39-58)

    Many of the older houses in the town that today is known as Lapta appear to their Greek owners as shabby and untended. This worries quite a few of the refugees, who puzzle over it. “Why is everything so dirty?” many people asked me. “Why have they not cared for things?

    Maroulla also asked me this question during our first trip there, as we stood by the spring known as Koufi Petra, today only a trickle, and gazed out over the neighborhood below, now occupied by settlers from Turkey. “Why have they not cared for things?” she asked. As though...

  8. THREE A Needle and a Handkerchief
    (pp. 59-78)

    “In Cacoyiannis’s rendering, the women are hunched, wailing. Dressed in black, the folds of their scarves harboring the dim light, they appear as poised vultures. Zorba keeps watch at the bedside of Madame Hortense, the frivolous foreigner who has long led a life of which the villagers disapprove. She paints herself and dresses in clothes that at one time were fashionable, living in fantasy the world of the famous courtesan that she claims once to have been. At her bedside, the village women wait, but as soon as she expires her last breath the women chanting prayers in her room...

  9. FOUR Geographies of Loss
    (pp. 79-100)

    Eleni was the one who told me that I should go to Paphos to see her brother-in-law, Vasillis. “He’s writing something about Lapithos,” she explained to me. “I don’t know what it is. He’s not very educated, but he’s a smart man.”

    When Vasillis first presented me with his notebook, I imagined that it would be memoirs, or another attempt at a “history” of the town, perhaps in the form of a memory book. I have a collection of such books, which are often compiled with the assistance of the refugee organizations and aim to record everything worth recording about...

  10. FIVE In the Ruins of Memory
    (pp. 101-133)

    It was on a muggy May evening while I was living in Lapithos that I crossed to the south for a meeting of Lapithos refugees at the Kyrenia municipality near the Ledra Palace checkpoint in Nicosia. It was “Kyrenia Week,” a series of festivities in celebration of the new municipal offices that had just opened in a stone mansion that once belonged to a Turkish Cypriot. Each night featured a different area of the Kyrenia region, and they had included Lapithos even though it had been a separate municipality since early in the British colonial period. In fact, before 1974...

  11. SIX The Spoils of History
    (pp. 134-161)

    I had been living in Lapta for several months when I got a call from Vasillis one day on my Turkish number. When I heard his voice, my immediate thought was for the expense of the call, which would be billed as international. As far as I could tell, he and Maroulla probably lived off a small government pension, supplemented by their goats and olive trees, and no doubt by a bit of money from their son. I felt guilty when he told me that he had called several times on my other number; I hadn’t gone to Nicosia in...

  12. SEVEN The Pieces of Peace
    (pp. 162-181)

    One day about a year after the referendum, a Greek Cypriot friend asked me to meet him in Nicosia in order to take him to the National Struggle Museum of northern Cyprus. The museum, erected in 1978 to honor the struggle for Turkish Cypriot survival and independence, stands near one of the Venetian gates leading into the walled city of Nicosia and is enclosed by a Turkish Cypriot army base. To enter, one presents an identity card to a young soldier, and passes a line of rusting tanks to enter the modernist structure through large glass doors. The several times...

  13. EIGHT Betrayals of the Past
    (pp. 182-193)

    More than a year after the referendum, I drove the two hours from Lapithos to the Paphos village where Maroulla and Vasillis now live. It was late May, and past the concrete chaos of Limassol the land was cracked and dry. They offered me coffee and preserved bitter oranges at a plastic table outside the kitchen door. Locusts hummed, and Vasillis fretted. We sat under grape vines that were beginning to bear fruit, and a trickle of breeze stirred the heat.

    I was willing to settle for one-third of my land,” Vasillis told me, the part that he would have...

  14. Reading the Future (In Lieu of a Conclusion)
    (pp. 194-196)

    Not long before leaving Lapithos, I went one last time to drink coffee with my neighbor, Sevgül. She is the wife of one of the local coffeeshop owners, both refugees from Paphos, and she has a network of relatives in the village. She is a pert, pretty woman of about fifty, with blond hair, blue eyes, and an abundance of freckles. But like most women her age, she complains of her health, attributing her high blood pressure and other problems to the years spent in the enclaves. She also has told me that although they have nothing against the Greeks,...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 197-198)
  16. Main Sources and Suggestions for Further Reading
    (pp. 199-205)
  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 206-207)