Lisa Dikomitis (1978) was born in Menen, a small town on the French-Belgian border, to a Greek Cypriot father and a Flemish mother. She wrote about that experience in her book, Cyprus and Its Places of Desire:


My mother tongue is Dutch; my ‘father tongue’ is Greek. My mother spoke a Flemish-French dialect

with us, my father the Cypriot dialect and between themselves they spoke English and French. My

mother sent us to Catholic schools, while my father brought us to the Saturday classes and the Sunday

liturgy of the local Greek-Orthodox church. I was raised on Brussels sprouts, Cypriot olives

and  halloumi (a Cypriot cheese) and I appreciate the refreshing taste of Belgian beer and the sweet

flavour of Cypriot  Commandaria (a dessert wine). (…) As a child, I experienced Cyprus mainly as a

fantastic holiday destination. Nevertheless, I was engaged with my Cypriot identity and aware of the

‘Cyprus Problem’. For example, when we had to give a speech in primary school I would always speak

about what happened between the ‘innocent Greek-Cypriot refugees’ and the ‘bad Turks’. The covers

of my notebooks were decorated with nationalistic stickers portraying a Greek Cypriot child behind

barbed wire, the slogan  ‘Den ksechno kai agonizomai’ (‘I do not forget and I fight’) or the island of

Cyprus on the background of a Greek flag. I am embarrassed to admit this now, but as a child I did not

know any better. I had formed a picture of the situation on Cyprus from the only source available to me

during my childhood: my Greek Cypriot relatives, all refugees, all biased.  (…) It was in secondary school

that I started seeing things from a wider perspective. I grew tired of the three topics Belgians would take

an interest in: the Mediterranean climate, the local food and Cypriot — in their eyes ‘exotic’ — traditions.

(…) I continued to write and speak about the ‘Cyprus Problem’ for school assignments, but now I

included the Turkish Cypriot perspective. When I first trained as a secondary school teacher I wrote my

dissertation on Greek poetry in Dutch translation. I finished my second degree in Art History with a

project on Cypriot archaeology, but still I felt unsatisfied. Cyprus had always captured my imagination,

but as I grew older, neither embracing nor rejecting the ‘Cypriot’ in me, I wanted to understand more

specific things about Cypriot society. No doubt it has to do with coming to terms with myself and giving

my ‘Cypriot side’ a place. That is how I came to be an anthropologist. I stumbled on social anthropology

in my search for a discipline that would allow me to write about contemporary Cypriot society and its

refugee predicament. (Dikomitis 2012: 21-22)


She grew up in the 1980s as a bookish girl (some evidence of that here), either quietly reading or talking too much and too fast. Not much has changed on that front! By the time Lisa was 18, two books of her poems were out with a Flemish publisher. A literary sensation that only lasted the length of the launch and press conference, so to speak. The pages of the unsold copies were later used by her siblings to write shopping lists on. Once at University, she wrote and performed, with her sister Elena, a theatre play about the war-torn lives of our grandmothers. Lisa continued to be engaged in socio-artistic projects and that was perhaps more of a success. It certainly planted the seed to bring the arts and humanities into her scholarly work.

There is a standing joke in Lisa's family that she started her academic career working on her father’s refugee predicament and then switched to focus on her mother’s life story. There is some truth in that. She grew up with a certain sensitivity for mental health issues because her mother has worked, since the early 1970s, in the same Flemish psychiatric hospital. When Lisa completed her book on Cyprus, she changed directions and ventured into medical anthropology and conducted ethnographic fieldwork in that very same hospital where her mother still works. Since then she is passionate about exploring socio-cultural aspects of health and illness, both in the UK and elsewhere, preferably using ethnographic and creative methods.

Lisa now lives in Staffordshire (a beautiful area in central England) with her husband, Vassos Argyrou, and their teenage daughter. They have continued the multi-lingual tradition as Nefeli is raised in Dutch, English and Greek. Nefeli takes after Lisa in that she also talks too much and too fast.