The Past in Pieces: Belonging in the New Cyprus


Bryant, Rebecca (2010) The Past in Pieces: Belonging in the New CyprusUniversity of Pennsylvania Press. Contemporary Ethnography.

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.

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