An Escape from Eurocentrism and Hellenism: Cypriot History in an Arab Key, 1923-1974
Supervisors: Dr Seth Anziska, Dr Ali Coşkun Tunçer (UCL History)
Theodosis is a PhD student from Nicosia, Cyprus. He has earned his BA in History from the University of Reading and an MA in History from UCL. His main fields of interest are colonial politics, postcolonialism and bi communal divisions that emerged through European colonial policies.
As an academic historian moving between Europe and the Levantine Mediterranean, my goal is to bring the history of Cyprus into the orbit of Middle Eastern history. Over the past four years I have been gradually building up to manage and complete a PhD with the aim of dislodging Cypriot history from its current position as part of the Hellenic and European narrative. I aspire to demonstrate how the island’s treatment over the past century has been dissimilar to European states and most importantly bares little comparison with Greek history. Instead, I aim to produce a new line of argument that sees the island as part of a greater Middle Eastern narrative. This stems primarily from the fact that Cyprus did not follow the path of Greece towards independence, neither that of other Mediterranean islands such as the Ionian islands or Crete. Cyprus, a cherished possession of the British Empire, one they aspired to hold on to for as long as possible, never truly found independence. The island was simply juggled around by British objectives. It was the arrival of the twentieth century along with the notion of modern European nationalism that began to divide people in Cyprus, and through a western style of nationalism that was enforced by the colonial administration that the island found its place under the banner of Europe and Hellenism. The fact that as modern nationalism was growing throughout Europe and all other states, such as Greece and Turkey, sentiments of Greekness falsely grew in Cyprus as for Cypriots of Christian descent Greece represented a tarnished version of liberty. In turn, Muslims on the island increasingly turned towards the Kemalist state and Turkish nationalism. It was these dichotomies, created by British support for nationalism, that placed the island into a narrative trap of division, that I would argue does not represent the true nature of the Cypriot identity.
This project aims to open up a new historiographical field in which Cyprus can fall under the banner of Middle Eastern history, rather than its European counterpart. But why Middle Eastern? What is it about the ME that is crucial here? A narrative which simply overlooks this complexities and realities that placate the Cyprus problem until day.
My working hypothesis is that policies adhered to in Palestine have been replicated in Cyprus as well, albeit with different players involved. In Cyprus the majority was the Greek Cypriots, with almost 80% throughout the prevailing decades of the 20th century and even up to the 1970s when the Turkish invasion occurred, splitting the island in two. In Palestine more of the same can be observed. The overwhelming majority of Muslims were the ones to lose their homeland during British control and Zionist expansion, but unlike Cyprus the key ally was the Zionist Movement, not Turkey. Despite limitations to such comparisons, such as the role of Greece in the Cyprus conflict, there is much to be said about the overall stance of the British in the shaping of the modern dichotomies that exist; a stance I aim to explore deeply as it is due to British intervention that the Cyprus conflict was exacerbated and, one could argue, that the western narrative was thrust upon Cyprus in order for the British to evade the cost of blame that accompanied the colonial project.