ECMI participated in the conference “Conflicts and Values of Heritage, The Cyprus Case and Beyond”

PRIO Cyprus Centre Annual Conference Nicosia, 12-13 November 2010

The event was organized by the Cyprus office of the Peace and Research Institute Oslo.

The conference focused on the complex politics of heritage destruction and reconstruction in Cyprus. Diverse social and political implications of heritage practice and neglect across the Cyprus divide were examined with a special focus on identity formation and reconstruction. The specific experiences of Cyprus were matched with heritage practice in other conflict zones with similar problems and predicaments.

The contributions addressed the following topics:

  •  how conflict and peacemaking dynamics are implicated in heritage practice in Cyprus 
  • adversarial and peacemaking uses of „conflict heritage‟ 
  • tensions and contradictions in the ethnicization of heritage in Cyprus and similar cases 
  • effects and affects of destruction, reconstruction and selective preservation of heritage on the different communities in Cyprus 
  • the comparison of official and subaltern, top-down and bottom-up practices of heritage as well as inequalities in identifying and protecting heritage 
  • responsibility / accountability in the interpretation and use of ethnic, cross-ethnic and non-ethnic heritage 
  • examples of heritage practice from which to draw comparative insights and lessons for the Cyprus case

ECMI was represented by Senior Research Associate PD Dr. Jan Asmussen, whose presentation dealt with „Cultural Heritage or National Heritage? Cyprus: a battleground‟.

Dr. Asmussen described Cyprus as being gifted with a unique heritage of multiple layers of cultural influences stemming from centuries of trade, immigration, traveling, and foreign rule. The preservation of this multicultural heritage is a huge and difficult task. However, he noticed that as there was a tendency in Cyprus of regarding everything through the lenses of the “Cyprus problem,” it could hardly surprise that the preservation of cultural heritage does not form an exception to that rule.

Dr. Asmussen discussed the different perceptions of how cultural heritage is defined on both sides of the Cyprus divide. Despite official statements to the contrary, heritage is very much regarded as part of national identity. Therefore, the level of heritage protection i.e. the value that is attributed to certain sites differs significantly depending on how these sites fit into nationalist narratives.

A specific focus was given on the preservation of Cypriot heritage in the north of Cyprus. Recent projects such as the salvage excavation of the King‟s Mountain (Kraltepe/Vasili) in the village of Kaleburnu/Galinoporni and efforts to preserve the old city of Famagusta are particular examples for the polarization of heritage protection. These and other examples constitute sad proof that cultural heritage in Cyprus is not regarded as self-value, but as a tool to foster other tasks such as the recognition of Northern Cyprus or the prevention of it.

This is done with the implicit acceptance of the fact that if heritage preservation policies are not rapidly altered, common world heritage on the island of Cyprus will be lost ad infinitum.

Dr. Asmussen is heading ECMI‟s research cluster on Conflict and Security. The cluster aims to enhance European security by means of sustainable trust and reconciliation. The cluster has a particular focus on research and revision of reconciliation policies in Europe.

Place and Date: Nicosia, 12-13 November 2010
For further information, please contact: Jan Asmussen, asmussen@ecmi.de

ECMI founders:

The German Federal GovernmentThe German
Federal Government
The Danish GovernmentThe Danish
The Federal State Schleswig-HolsteinThe Federal State