Books

Cyprus and Its Places of Desire

Cyprus and Its Places of Desire
Cultures of Displacement among Greek and Turkish Cypriot Refugees

IB Tauris, London/New York/Melbourne, February 2012

This book is an ethnography of the refugee experience in Cyprus and deals with two groups of refugees, one group of Greek Cypriots and one Turkish Cypriots. The two groups are linked by their histories of displacement to a single ‘place of desire’, a small mountainous village located in the north of Cyprus. The book focuses on the nature of the attachment to this particular village by both refugee groups and how this attachment has been shaped by questions of justice and suffering and the specific meanings that these notions have for each group.

The original name of the village is Larnakas tis Lapithou and for its Greek Cypriots inhabitants who fled during the Turkish invasion of 1974 and scattered all over the south of Cyprus it will always remain so. But the village has changed drastically. It was renamed after 1974 to Kozan (in Turkish) and became home to the Turkish Cypriot refugees from the south of Cyprus who moved there after 1974. Their desire too is that the village remains so.

The book emphasizes the importance of place as a constructed network of social relationships as this captures well the experience of these Greek and Turkish Cypriot refugees. For Greek Cypriots the desire is to return to the village and recreate the network of relationships that was shattered by the war. For Turkish Cypriots the desire is to remain in the village and maintain the network of relationships that was constructed since the war. And for both this is a question of justice, recognition of their suffering, even if what is meant by justice in each case is antithetical: for Greek Cypriots, the right to return, for Turkish Cypriots, the right to stay.


Reviews:

‘Lisa Dikomitis’ book is one of the best ethnographies written on Cyprus in recent years. (…) At a time when ethnographic monographs are almost exclusively read by academics, ‘Cyprus and its places of desire’ offers an engaging ethnographic narrative with a literary flavour that will likely appeal to a wider audience.’ The Cyprus Review


‘The format of the book is a blend of theme and chronology, done pretty skillfully. (…) This is a good book for anybody wishing to know about the grass-roots reality, and not only the strategic greed of outside powers, which cause the problem in the first place. It is a healthy read.’ The Anglo Hellenic Review


'Lisa Dikomitis has written an even-handed account of two groups of people linked by their painful histories of displacement, to a single place, Larnakas tis Lapithou, in Greek, Kozan in Turkish. It was difficult because she did not have the luxury of a neutral identity, for her father was once an inhabitant of the village in question, but settled in Belgium. Dikomitis had initially a fund of goodwill from her Greek Cypriot relatives, but when she made first contacts with Turkish Cypriots, their trust had to be earned the hard way.  And while doing so, she risked losing the trust of her Greek Cypriot covillagers. Fortunately, she met both challenges impressively.

Dikomitis had to come to terms with another long-standing issue in anthropology – how far to write herself into, or out of her account of her field research. As is well known, the founding fathers of anthropology tended [it was not always the case] to write impersonally, and to leave their own identities, statuses, and characters out of their accounts. They often wrote as if they had an understanding of an objectively verifiable social world.

One of the great strengths of this book in my view is the continuous use of apt quotations from informants, which brings life and colour into the text. In addition Lisa Dikomitis writes easily, persuasively and clearly. She has managed to incorporate her knowledge of relevant contemporary theorists, but to wear her learning lightly. These are unusual achievements. This book is a significant contribution to the anthropology of Cyprus, and to the sociological understanding of forced migrations.' Peter Loizos (London School of Economics, UK)


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When God Comes to Town


When God Comes to Town

Religious Traditions in Urban Contexts

Berghahn Books, Oxford/New York, April 2009 (paperback 2012)

Around 1800 roughly three per cent of the human population lived in urban areas; by 2030 this number is expected to have gone up to some seventy per cent. This poses problems for traditional religions that are all rooted in rural, small-scale societies. The authors in this volume question what the possible appeal of these old religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam could be in the new urban environment and, conversely, what impact global urbanization will have on learning and on the performance and nature of ritual. Anthropologists, historians and political scientists have come together in this volume to analyse attempts made by churches and informal groups to adapt to these changes and, at the same time, to explore new ways to study religions in a largely urbanized environment.

Reviews:

'The strength of the book lies in its treatment of a crucial topic through historical and ethnographic material which is drawn from various cross-cultural case studies illustrating the vastness of the issue in question… offer[ing] a wealth of material on the dynamic relationship between religious traditions and urban contexts around the world.' Journal of Contemporary Religion

'This book is a neat little volume with clear localized case studies…showing how urbanization generally influences the religiosity of everyday life in modern urban centres… In general, the book is easy to read and suitable as a student reader or an academic or postgraduate reference text. It is high time that anthropologists consider modern urban religiosity and its contested spatial practices with the seriousness they deserve.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

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