ana sayfa > dosyalar > Looking at the house from inside (Chapter Three)
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 Chapter Three: Empirical Part


I  Introduction

II The notion of the family

1. The significance of the family for Greek-Cypriots

The importance of the family

Family celebrations and kinship terms

The meaning of names

Ritual Kinship

2.  Constructing group-consciousness: The notion of the family

Inclusion of Turkish-Cypriots


3.  Summary

III The notion of religion

1. Constructing group-consciousness: The notion of religion

Inclusion of Turkish-Cypriots

Exclusion of Turks

2. Religion within Greek-Cypriot culture

The significance of religion

Religious rituals throughout the Orthodox year

Religion and politics

3.  Summary

IV The notion of work

1. The significance of work within Greek-Cypriot culture

Economic situation

Motivation for working

The significance of working relationships

2.  Constructing group-consciousness: The notion of work

Inclusion of Turkish-Cypriots

Exclusion of Turks

3.  Summary

V The notion of food

1. The significance of food within Greek-Cypriot society

  The symbolic meaning of food in everyday life

Ritual foods

2. Constructing group-consciousness: The notion of food

Inclusion of Turkish-Cypriots

3. Summary

VI The notion of the house

1. The house in Cyprus

    The Cypriot house

The meaning of the house in Greek-Cypriot culture

Aspects of the family, of gender and locality

Religious aspects of the house

  The concept of 'inside versus outside'

Work for the house

The loss of houses

2. Constructing group-consciousness: The notion of the house

Inclusion of Turkish-Cypriots

Exclusion of Turks

3. Turkish-Cypriot houses

4. Summary

VII Further aspects

1. A note about the notion of locality and neighbourhood

2. Aspects of individual priority and gender

3. About 'The stranger'




















[ content | chapter 3 ]

I  Introduction


There are two things that practically everyone agrees on. First of all, the so-called Cyprus problem is attributed to outside influences in general, to the intervention of the United States, England, Greece and Turkey. The causes of and responsibili­ties for the conflict which led to the division of Cyprus are very much seen as lying outside, whatever that means. It is i megali, i.e. the powerful ones, that are to be blamed solely[41]. Secondly, except for some very young people, everyone very sharply and decisively distinguishes between Turkish!-Cypriots on the one hand and Turks from mainland Turkey on the other referred to as 'those from outside'. The term i turki,  the Turks, is used by many people indiscri­minately for both Turkish-Cypriots and Turks, but it becomes clear in the context that by this they sometimes mean the Turkish-Cypriots and sometimes the Turks. For the sake of clarity, I will distinguish between Turkish-Cypriots and Turks in my pre­sentation even when my informants did not. The fact that people often use the same term for both Turkish-Cypriots and Turks does not imply that they perceive them as one group. On the contrary: the dichotomy between Turkish-Cypriots and Turks is ubiquitous.

There are two processes at work: the process of inclusion and the process of exclu­sion. The point I want to make is that both processes are based on exactly the same cultural notions and values even though they work in opposite directions. These notions by which people reason about both Turkish-Cypriots and Turks, and about themselves, are highly shared. They are cultural notions. Except for a certain difference due to age and personal experience, I could not detect any signi­ficant difference between either refugees and non-refugees, men and women, Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots (although I only spoke to few Turkish-Cypriots), or between people of different political positions or educational back­ground. Compare the following statements for example:


"I tell you, we had excellent relationships, relationships which did not distinguish between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots. Those who went there (to the North) cannot bear living with these settlers, because they chose the worst ones, those from Turkey, they brought them from prisons They are criminals, and they brought them here "

"Look, the Turkish-Cypriots were good. I had Turkish-Cypriot friends when I was young, we went to their homes, we ate together and en­joyed ourselves. We were together. You couldn't tell who was Turkish-Cypriot and who was Greek-Cypriot. The Turkish-Cypriots were our brothers. ... The Turkish-Cypriots themselves cannot live with the Turks, they emigrate, ... they are all criminals, those from Turkey."


The first statement was made by a politically left, the second by a politically right person. In Cyprus, being politically left means being 'cypriocentric'. Cypriocentric people consider themselves first of all Cypriots rather than Greeks. Being politi­cally right means leaning towards the opposite, 'hellenocentric' side. Helleno­centric people primarily identify themselves with Greece rather than Cyprus. However, most people sense a double identity of being both Greek and Cypriot, only hellenocentric people emphasize the Greek, while cypriocentric people stress the Cypriot part of their double identity (for a discussion of these two major ideological camps in Cyprus, i.e. the hellenocentric and the cypriocentric camp cf. Stamatakis 1994). The similarity of the way people with very diverse political positions talk about Turkish-Cypriots and Turks was brought home to me once again when I found out that one of my best friends I had assumed to be politically left due to the way he talked about intercommunal relations, turned out to be fairly right-wing in fact. I had not realized this despite knowing him for many months and having talked to him about intercommunal relationships several times. I had never explicitely asked him about his political position, but had come to a completely wrong conclusion on the grounds of my own under­standing of what being politically left and right implies.


"We had no problems at all with the Turkish-Cypriots, we got on like brothers and sisters. ... There is a very big difference between Turkish-Cypriots and Turks. Ask the Turkish-Cypriots themselves The Turks are a barbarian, savage people, they are not civilized."


Compare this statement by a university graduate who studied abroad to the following one by a housewife who has only gone through primary education:


"We got on very well, very well, there was no problem at all. We had a Turkish-Cypriot neighbour and she treated me like her own daughter. It is those from outside who have brought all the bad things, they are bloodthirsty, they are bad, they kill."


I could add other examples illustrating the lack of difference concerning the per­ception of Turks and Turkish-Cypriots between refugees and non-refugees or between people who used to live in mixed villages (about half of the villages were mixed prior to 1974 [Choisi 1993: 428]) as opposed to those who come from exclusively Greek-Cypriot villages.

When asked to recall the time before 1974, some people mentioned personal ex­periences with intercommunal violence during the 1960s. Particularly one Greek-Cypriot man who is married to a born Turkish-Cypriot woman personally expe­rienced harrassment by both Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot extremists. Never­theless, people like him who experienced ethnically based violence at first hand did not hold different views on the overall relations between the two commu­nities of Cyprus than people without such experiences. They agree with everyone else, that basically, the relationship between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots was one of friendship and trust.

The only significant difference I noticed is that between people of different age groups whereby I define three age groups based on personal experience and the lack of it respectively (cf. chapter one and Appendix A). The first age group con­sists of those  people who can personally remember the time before inter­communal violence first started in the 1960s; the second group consists of those people whose first memories stem from exactly that time; and the third one  con­sists of those people who are too young to personally remember the time before the division of Cyprus in 1974. I have to add though that I conducted many more interviews with people of the first than with people belonging to the second and third group. Especially persons around twenty (third group) were not half as in­terested in talking about the topic I focused on than people who are at least thirty or forty years old. To get a few interviews with younger people of the second and the third group (eight in total) took much more effort on my part than getting many more (nineteen) with people belonging to the first group. This is an interesting fact in itself. Some young people (born in the 1970s) simply lack interest in the Turkish-Cypriots, because they do and cannot experience their ab­sence as a loss. They have never known them and, as things look, never will. People around forty or above, on the other hand, seize every opportunity to em­phatically speak of the Turkish-Cypriots. I will now describe the overall attitude of the three age groups in turn.  


First age group: People with personal experiences and memories of the Turkish-Cypriots before the troubles started in the 1960s (this group includes informants born between 1914 and 1956, i.e. persons of the age of 40 and above) always stress how well they used to get on with each other. The phrases 'we got on very well' (perasame poli kala) and 'we liked each other very much' (imaste agapimeni) were endlessly repeated. In order to illustrate this, my informants brought up examples of interaction and cooperation in daily life, such as a Turkish-Cypriot tailor in the neighbouring village who always made their clothes, or a Turkish-Cypriot man who sold the best yoghurt in town, or a Turkish-Cypriot hairdresser they used to go to. But they also told me about more intimate contacts such as sitting and drinking  together in the local cafe (kafenion), visiting each other at home and looking after each other's children. More than one woman remem­bered a Turkish-Cypriot midwife helping herself or her mother giving birth. These are relationships between good neighbours and friends. Not only did Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots get on very well before the problems started, they also helped each other during times of political conflict in the 1960s. Greek-Cypriots, people belonging to the first age group remember, used to hide their Turkish-Cypriot neighbours and friends from Greek-Cypriot extremists and vice versa. One woman for example recalled how a Turkish-Cypriot man from the neighbouring village tried his best to save her cousin from being taken prisoner by the invading Turkish military in 1974 although he did not succeed in the end:


"... a Turkish-Cypriot of the village (where her cousin had been arrested by Turkish soldiers) said to him: 'Don't be afraid, I am here and I will save you. Where are you from?' He said:' I am from Prastio (a village in the now occupied areas). He said: 'From Prastio? Are you ... whose son are you? Who is your mother?' He said: 'It is Kyriakos S.' 'Ah, you are the son of Kyriakos S' They knew him. 'Don't be afraid, I will make sure that they will let you go'."


One man twice told me his 'most significant experience' which he once made on his way home from school leading him through Turkish-Cypriot villages.


"In 1954, I was twelve years old. It had been raining so heavily, that the river had risen very much so that we couldn't cross it where we normally did. There was no bridge and we didn't know what to do. There was a mill nearby which belonged to a Turkish-Cypriot and we went to ask him what to do and he sent us to a place where, on the other side of the river, there was yet another Turkish-Cypriot mill, and this man, Kemali, knew where one could pass the river and he led us across, that means, he risked his life for us, because it was raining so heavily He felt obliged, and I will never forget this. These are experiences!"


They were good people one could trust. The Greek-Cypriots of the first age group perceive the Turkish-Cypriots as sharing with them mentality, character, way of life and most of culture. They hold the view that one could not tell any difference between Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots at all, that they were and acted the same as Greek-Cypriots, that they had 'the same systems'. The fact that the Turkish-Cypriots cried when they were forcibly removed to Turkish-Cypriot enclaves in the 1960s and to the North in 1974, is for many people a vivid memory and proof of just how strong the bicommunal bonds, based on village, neighbourhood, friendship and in some cases family, were. These people remember the Turkish-Cypriots as 'Osman', 'Abdullah' and 'Ozgür' they had played with as children.

This general attitude stressing the harmonious relations between Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots was also confirmed to me by the few Turkish-Cypriots I met (according to Turkish-Cypriot informants, there are still a few hundred Turkish-Cypriots living in the South and about twenty in Pafos).


Second age group: People who were born in the 1960s remember things some­what differently. The first intercommunal violence broke out in December 1963 and lasted for almost a year. It spured up again in 1967. Even though these people were only a few years old at the time, they remember certain events and emo­tions very clearly. And these memories are amongst the first ones they have.


"I remember that my mother told me that they got on very well with the Turkish-Cypriots, they didn't have to be afraid, they felt secure. ... But after 1964, the troubles started and I remember that it was very dan­gerous then. We were afraid and when we heard 'Turks', it was as if you heard: 'the dragon comes to eat the babies', and when they said: 'the Turks come', we were shaking with fear. I was only little, but be­cause these were serious matters, I remember them. When I was five or six years old, my mother went to the market with my brother and sister, they were only babies, she went to the market to do some shopping and the Turkish-Cypriots in the Mutallos (the formerly Turkish-Cypriot quarter of Pafos) had started to revolt, and they grabbed several Greek-Cypriots who had gone to the market and they took them prisoners, they didn't let them go again. They also threw a bomb which killed one person in front of my mother's eyes, and my mother said that his intestines were hanging out, and my mother took the blanket in which she had wrapped my little brother and she covered the dead person with it ... and my brother and sister were crying and my mother was very sad. And they kept them for two or three days and then, the UN came and set them free."


Despite these personal memories of fear and shock, the people I conducted inter­views with born in the 1960s were very much aware that it used to be different. They stressed as much as older people the overall very good and friendly rela­tionship between Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots. But they seem to be in two ways about their feelings. On the one hand, they acknowledge that for a very long time indeed there was no conflict. This they have heard from their parents and other older people and therefore they feel that the Turkish-Cypriots must have been good people. On the other hand, they personally remember being afraid or not being able to enter the Turkish-Cypriot quarter in Pafos in the 1960s. Therefore they lack the trust in Turkish-Cypriots the older generation has. In one interview for example, which I conducted with the 68-year-old mother of a friend of mine, the conversation was brought round to events in the Mutallos in the 1960s. While the mother stressed the generally harmonious relationship, the daughter who was also present interrupted her to emphasize that it was very dangerous to enter the Turkish-Cypriot quarter at that time. To this her mother did agree, only to emphasize, however, that it was dangerous for Greek-Cypriots to enter the Turkish quarteronly after  a Greek-Cypriot man had been attacked by Turkish-Cypriots, but that before there had been no problem to do so. It was only after the daughter's intervention that the mother acknowledged this fact, but she hastened to put it into a long-term perspective of good relations. They both recalled the same time and the same series of events, but for the daughter born in 1964 the feeling of being afraid is prominent while for her mother, the events in the 1960s are exceptional and therefore do not challenge her overall perception of inter­communal relations. For the daughter, Turkish-Cypriots are Turks after all. She has no trust in them even though she is aware of what her mother and other older people remember and tell her, and despite good personal memories she has of Turkish-Cypriot neighbours herself.


Third age group: People born in the 1970s have no personal memory whatsoever of the time when Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots used to live together. Some of them not only have absolutely no trust in either Turks or Turkish-Cypriots, they lump them together into one category. One 20-year-old woman explained:


"Look, I don't make a difference between Turkish-Cypriots and Turks, because they are all Turks, for us, they are Turks, for me... okay, I can say that I feel something like hate towards them ... when I hear the word 'Turk', I will say: 'Far away', I will not say ... , I would think about it very hard. Of course, neither the young Turks of my age are to blame, but... they are our enemies, in everything, generally. ... I don't know how life used to be, but from what I've heard, the Greek-Cypriots were afraid to move freely, they were afraid to be on the streets, the Greek was afraid, the Cypriot, because there were Turks, they stopped and caught them, our grandparents always lived in fear of meeting a Turk..."


Another young woman born in 1972 has just as negative a picture of both the Turkish-Cypriots and the Turks:


"Well, the Turkish-Cypriots are not as bad as the Turks, they are a little cleaner, but still, generally, they are like the Turks. Not like us. It is inside of them. They are a people which likes violence and war, they are under­developed, not civilized, they don't have the European culture. They aren't good people. If you fall over on a street in Turkey or if you need help, nobody will help you, they would step over you without offering help. It's not like here where everyone would immediately rush to help."


These two young women have never been in Turkey, nor have they ever met either a Turkish-Cypriot or a Turkish person. In order to support their views, both also invoked recent events where a Greek-Cypriot had trusted a Turkish-Cypriot only to get deceived. Although these young women adopt extremer posi­tions than many other young people I have met[42], I have chosen them in order to illustrate the other end of the spectrum, and because I believe that their state­ments are indicative of where the new generations are heading towards. A num­ber of parents expressed their worries about their children's attitude lumping Turkish-Cypriots and Turks indiscriminately together. This is attributed, rightly I think, to formal education.


Some young people, not all of them - but this is something only  young people would ever do - do not distinguish between Turkish-Cypriots and Turks, because to them they are all Turks, period. And Turks basically means enemy, means savage. They draw the line not between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots on the one hand and Turks 'from outside' on the other as the bulk of the Cypriot people do, they draw it between themselves and the Turks meaning both Turkish-Cypriots and Turks from the mainland. However, the point I want to make is that the processes through which this line is drawn, be it between Greek-Cypriots and the rest or between all Cypriots and the rest, are the same. They are based on cul­turally shared notions.

In order to illustrate these processes I will now turn to discuss those notions which are most salient in the interviews I conducted. Their centrality for the pro­cesses of constructing belonging and group-consciousness amongst Greek-Cypriots was also confirmed to me many times in brief encounters of all kinds. When necessary I will point to the difference between people belonging to diffe­rent age groups as defined above. The notions I am going to discuss are not clear-cut in reality, but overlap considerably. For the sake of clarity, however, I will present them separately, although, as will hopefully become clear in the course of my presentation, they are all related to each other and acquire their full meaning only in combination.


It is not my intention to discuss the truth of the statements made by my infor­mants. It is my aim to understand what and how Greek-Cypriots perceive other groups of people, irrespective of whether the truth is remembered selectively or not, or whether their perception is clearly biased on the grounds of stereotypical, sometimes evolutionist and even racist prejudices or not. Therefore, I have re­frained from citing literature pro or contra the statements made and accounts given by my informants.

Neither is it my intention to give complete analyses of the notions I concentrate on. My aim is to show their importance within the Greek-Cypriot context. There­fore, I will cite the relevant literature only selectively. I will be somewhat more thorough in the section about the family and the house because there all crucial notions of Greek-Cypriot culture join up.



[ content | chapter 3 ]

II  The notion of the family

The first notion I want to discuss is that of the family. This notion is very salient in the way Greek-Cypriots speak about Turkish-Cypriots and Turks. They employ it in order to reason about both. Therefore, if one wants to understand Greek-Cypriots' reasoning about Turkish-Cypriots and Turks, one must first compre­hend what the notion of the family means and implies for them. It is in this notion as well as in the last one I will discuss, in the notion of the house that all values which are important within Greek-Cypriot culture, join up.


1. The significance of the family for Greek-Cypriots


The importance of the family


There is an abundance of literature illustrating the central meaning of the family in Cyprus, Greece and other Mediterranean cultures[43]. "... There are no indi­vidual actors ... there are only members of families" (Loizos 1975a: 63). Mostly, the nuclear family is also the residential unit in Cyprus, although elderly parents may live in the same household, too. Nevertheless, the notion of the family far ex­tends the nuclear family and includes both consanguines (blood relatives) and affines (relatives through marriage) of different grades. Before I go on to discuss salient and ubiquitous features of the family in Cyprus - family rituals, naming practices and ritual kinship (there would be many more contexts suitable to illustrate the great significance of the notion of the family) -, let me just call the meaning of the family to mind again by means of a couple of statements Greek-Cypriots of different ages made about their feelings concerning the family.


"To have a family is the most important goal of the Cypriots. If you don't establish a family, you have somehow missed the aim of your life. And in a way it is the natural duty of human kind, its reproduc­tion. ... It is better to have a big family than a small one, four to six children. For me, for the Cypriots, it is better to have a large family. What do you do if you get old without a family? You are alone. To have a big family is better."


One close friend of mine wanted to convince me to establish, the sooner the better, a family myself:


"The family is the most important thing in life. If I now see my children grow up, if I see my daughter-in-law at the side of my son, then you can imagine what happiness I feel. Everything I want is that my daughters, too, will find good husbands who will be at their sides, more I do not want. To have a family is the greatest meaning of life, if you don't have family, you lose the most important."


"The family plays a very important role for us, in any case, we are bound to one another by strong ties, not like with you (abroad) where every person goes their own way after a certain age ... we grow up with our parents, with our brothers and sisters, and even when we get married, we are still unified ... like with my brother who has moved away to live in his wife's house. Me and my sister stayed here together with our mother and our young brother who is not married yet, be­cause we have built our houses together here. I wouldn't like my sister to live at another place, I would feel like ... I am used to being together with her, and I like to be together with her. We help each other if one of us needs anything."

Family celebrations and kinship terms



Kinship in Cyprus is very clearly bilateral[44]. More importantly, the notion of the family, the ikojenia  encompasses both consanguines and affines. Good and strong relationships with affinal relatives are just as important as with blood relatives. This I could observe when the son of close friends of mine started a romantic relationship with a young woman. After they had been involved with each other for about nine months, they decided to get married later on. From the moment the young couple showed some seriousness in their intentions with each other - though they were not even engaged yet -, the parents of the two got involved in a very intense contact with each other independently of the young couple. At the prospect of their children getting married, two whole families start to engage themselves in establishing family bonds with each other. It is as if two families, rather than two individuals were going to get married. My friend put it this way:


"For the young couple to be happy, it is important that their families get on well. From the moment they are married, my daughter-in-law will be exactly the same for me as my own daughters. I will love her just as much."


To come from a good family is an important criterion of the choice of  a bride or groom. The tradition of parents arranging marriages calledproxenia is still prac­ticed in Cyprus, at least in the area of Pafos[45]. However, nowadays it is more of a proposal than an arrangement between parents, because ultimately the young people can accept or refuse each other on the grounds of personal feelings. However, many of the couples around forty years old now had little say in the choice of their marital partners (cf. Loizos 1975a: 70).


To marry off one's children is the parents' final contribution to their lives and happiness. Daughters, if possible at all, are given a house in the neighbourhood of their parents. Sons and daughters alike are given land if available. Having married off their children and having given them a house and land, parents feel that they have equipped their children with what is important in life.They have sent them on their way and can now relax to wait for grandchildren to come who are going to get the same kind of help from their parents. One's life has been meaningful in that it has created a new family and a new house.


In Salamone & Stanton's words.


"... the goal of familial enterpreneurship [is] tied to the so­cially desirable goals of marriage, child rearing, and building for the future of one's children." (1986: 118)


The costs for a marriage are shared between the two pairs of parents and they are very high indeed. People with a joint monthly salary of 800 Cypriot Pounds (him working as a bus driver and her as an employee in a hotel for instance) easily spend 5000 Cypriot Pounds for their child's wedding and a good portion of that for the engagement which almost always takes place one or two years prior to marriage. But not only the parents help their children on their way to becoming parents themselves, all relatives, neighbours, colleagues and friends contribute money as well. Even second and even third cousins are considered close relatives and attending their wedding and contributing financially is a social obligation. In the course of the wedding celebration, first the closest, then more distant relatives pin on strings of money on the bride's and the groom's clothes dancing a particu­lar wedding dance accompanied by a particular wedding melody. The young couple may get up to 30'000 Cypriot Pounds, I was told, as a start for their joined lives to which a whole community has contributed. After the money has been given in this way, the mother of the groom blesses the couple with incense. Then the other people present are blessed, too. The bride and groom are further decora­ted with jewellery.


"... parents gain or lose social prestige by the provision they make for their children's marriages. ... married adults work throughout their lives to gain their position in the prestige system of the village, which is only finally decided when the marriages of all their children can be evaluated by their fellow-villagers." (Loizos 1975a: 65)


It has become clear that the families of the newly wed play as important a role as the religious authorities in the overall ceremony of a wedding. It is the parents who contribute most to the material and spiritual well-being of their children. However, religion plays an important role in creating ritual kinship which I will discuss below.


Kinship terminology

Linguistically, the bride, the nifi, is not only the bride of the groom, but of his whole family. She is everyone's bride, she is the nifi of her husband's parents as well as of his brothers and sisters and other relatives. The same applies to the groom, the gambros. 'My bride' or 'my groom' may refer to a person's daughter- or son-in-law as well as to a sister- or brother-in-law.

Except for bride and groom themselves, all affinial relatives, but particularly the couple's respective parents, are referred to as sympetheri (which may clumsily be translated as co-parents-in-law). Rather than addressing affinal relatives by their individual names, female affines are always called sympethera (co-mother-in-law) and male affines sympetheros (co-father-in-law). This is true for a little girl addressing her sister's mother-in-law as much as for her grandparents addressing the same person, for example. It is the family relationship above the union bet­ween two individual people which is linguistically stressed.

Another pair of terms for a particular family relationship is sygrambros (co-groom) and synifada (co-bride), for males and females respectively. These terms refer to men who have married sisters - they are sygambros for each other - or to women married to brothers - they are each other's synifada. This is a general phenomenon in Cyprus. Except for married couples, brothers and sisters, and adults addressing children, related people address each other by the term descri­bing their kind of relationship rather than by individual first names, also when talking about someone not present. Only if necessary in order to avoid confusion is someone's individual name added. For instance, the parents of a bride would never address the groom's parents by their individual names, but always by sympethera and sympetheros. Or a daughter referring to her brother when spea­king to their father would often say 'your son' rather than that son's individual name.

Moreover, family relationships are linguistically extended to persons who are not family in any sense. Children in particular are supposed to address all adults by a familial term even if they are not related to them in any way. For example, I was often referred to as 'the aunt'.Kori meaning 'daughter' is a term used by anyone  - men or women, children or adults, family members or strangers - to address any female person. Similarly, the expression 'my child' (pedi mu) can be used by anyone to address any person except for people distinctively older than oneself. Pedia, literally 'children', is a very common term of address for any group of people, be they related or not. It may be translated as 'folks'. And finally, mana mu which literally means 'my mother', is very often used in a situation where the speaker wishes to express sympathy or affection to the addressee, in fact, in any kind of informal social encounter. This affectionate term of address is not confined to any one sex either. Men and women alike may be called 'my mother'. Parents address their own children as mana mu. An old man may call a comple­tely unrelated young woman like myself 'my mother'. Basically, everyone calls everyone mana mu.

What the frequent use of these kinship terms basically shows is that a person is primarily identified as a daughter, a child, i.e. a member of a family, be it one's own family or another one.


Other family celebrations

Most people get engaged before getting married. Like a wedding, an engagement is a celebration including family, friends and colleagues. As with weddings, the young couple flanked by parents and ritual kin (see below) pose near the entrance to receive the guests who file along wishing all of them the long life of the newly engaged or married couple.

A child's birthday is not celebrated amongst children only, it is a celebration of the whole family and its physical continuation in which many different genera­tions take part. With children, birth- and namedays are celebrated alike. With adults, namedays are much more important than birthdays, except if a person does not have a holy namesake. Then, the birthday takes the place of the name­day, but most people do in fact carry the name of a saint. The celebration of a person's nameday is an important occasion in which a lot of adult relatives, friends and colleagues join. As with other family celebrations, not only the person who actually celebrates is congratulated ('may you live'), but her or his relatives as well, wishing them that person's long life (na su zisi = may she/he live long for you). It is not the individual which is primarily celebrated, but the individual as part of a family and, as will become clear below, the individual as embodiment of the divine. In order to show the full meaning of namedays I now turn to Greek-Cypriot naming practices.


The meaning of names


Names are not primarily a mark of a person's individuality in Cyprus, but they identify and locate the individual in relation to the earthly and to the divine community. Names embody and combine two of the most important notions for Greek-Cypriots, that of the family and that of religion.


First names[46]

Linking generations

The system of naming children works like this. The first son is named after his paternal grandfather, the first daughter after her maternal grandmother. The second son is named after his maternal grandfather and the second daughter after her paternal grandmother. Subsequent children are given names of both mater­nal and paternal relatives. This system is very often actually applied, but of course in practice, there are alterations and exceptions. First of all the continua­tion of a name is not bound to gender. A male name may be, in its female form, used for a daughter. For example, out of Savas there can become Savulla, or out of Georgia Georgos. The most important rule, it seems to me, is not that names continue through gender lines, but that they do continue in the family, normally jumping one generation. Friends of mine, for example, called their first child, a son, after his paternal grandmother transforming Evanthia into the male form Evanthis. To the rule of continuation through the family, there are not many exceptions. Only few couples chose names for their children on the basis of personal liking rather than family tradition. One friend of mine explained very proudly to me that for three hundred years now, the oldest sons of the family have always been called Dimitris. Through the existence of her or his name in previous and future generations, through "the potentially endless repetition of names, in contrast to the finite span of each human life " (Herzfeld 1992: 292), an individual's linear time is thus transformed into a cyclical notion of time and life (see Herzfeld 1982). By being embedded into generations before and after one­self, a person gains permanence.

There are basically two reasons for making an exception, for not naming a child after relatives in older generations. First, if a member of the family has died young or under tragic circumstances, that person is often commemorated by giving his or her name to a child. For example, friends of mine who lost their first son at the age of two named their first daughter after him. If one of the parents' own parents is already dead when a child is born, it is normally named after the late parent. Other members of one's family may be commemorated, too. Second, if a woman has difficulties in either conceiving, during pregancy or when giving birth, she may decide to name her child after a particular saint she has asked for help. One woman told me for example, that she had prayed to St Nicholas to help her when she was giving birth and that in return, she had pro­mised to name her child after him and to celebrate his nameday every year. She added that during the labour pains she had seen her late mother and the image of St Nicholas in her mind's eye. Everything went fine and she named her son Nikos. Making such exceptions concerning names is a matter of establishing priorities. In Herzfeld's words:


!j"In practice, exceptions to an articulated, indigenous set of rules are indicative of a conflict between mutually incompa­tible ideals, a conflict which the exigencies of actual social ex­perience and the need to make strategic choices have forced into the open. ... It allows us to see rules not merely as a set of constraints upon people, but as something that people acti­vely manipulate to express a sense of their own position in the social world." (Herzfeld 1982: 288-90)


In any case - and this is what really matters - first names are never neutral to the parents chosing them, but they always carry meaning, be they related either to one's own family or to 'the family of the divine', a point I will take up again be­low. Names do not first of all celebrate the individual, but the individual's inte-gration within social structures. As Kenna notes: "Grandparents say that name­sake grandchildren 'resurrect' their names and ensure their physical continuity after death"(1976a: 24[47]). Note the religious terminology which leads me to the second source of meaning of personal names: the holy world. But before, I would like to mention yet another interesting aspect of Greek-Cypriot naming practices ensuring continuity. Through naming children after both human heros and gods of the Greek mythology - such as Afroditi, Artemis, Kallypso,  Iliada, Athina, Erato for women, and Apollonas, Omiros, Ermis, Odisseas, Sophoklis, Sokratis, Adonis, Periklis, Aristofanes, Achilleas for men, - the 'family' of Greeks is recre­ated, connecting ancient and modern times.


Linking humans to the divine

The bulk of Greek-Cypriot people have first names relating to Orthodox saints such as Maria, Georgia, Christina, Varvara, Thekla, Sofia, Lukia, Irini Panajota, Katerina, Elpida, Anthi, Anna, Agathi, Paraskevi, Ariadni or Eleni for women and Georgos, Andreas, Michalis, Marios, Dimitris, Pavlos, Petros, Christos, Neofytos, Themistoklis, Ilias, Joannis, Savas, Stavros, Chrisanthos, Alexandros or Jakovos for men. People with such a name celebrate on the day of their holy namesake. These days run throughout the year, but are concentrated in the Christmas and Easter periods. Women called Maria or men called Marios cele­brate five times a year on dates referring to different stages in the life of the Panagia which, following Peristiany (1992: 113), I prefer to translate as the All Holy rather than the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through naming people after ortho­dox saints, they become earthly embodiments of the divine and of religious values. Some priests, I was told, reject to baptize children carrying mythological or foreign names such as Laura. However, there are priests themselves with non-Orthodox names. That names are linked to religious identity is also illustrated by the fact that convertion from Islam to Christianity is always accompanied by a change of name (cf. Maratheftis 1989:163). The two born Turkish-Cypriot women I know in Pafos have both been renamed Maria when they became Christians.

Typically, the legendary Archbishop and President Makarios is commemorated on his nameday rather than any other[48]. In Orthodoxy, people holding religious offices such as priests and bishops are understood as spokesmen rather than re­presentatives of the divine[49]. As people in daily life, they remain human and earthly. The idea of an infallible pope for example is alien to Orthodox thinking. 


Everyone who has been in Greece or Cyprus will know that a lot of people have the same names. This is so precisely because first names are not a matter of free choice but a means of binding an individual to other generations and to the world of the divine. One might assume now that there is a lot of confusion as to who is actually addressed by a particular name two or more people in the same room might share. This is, however, not the case because, as mentioned above, more often than not, people address each other by familial terms rather than by their individual names.



The term 'family name' is a misnomer in the Greek-Cypriot context, because both first and surnames are family-related. Epitheto, surname, literally means 'something added'. A person is normally not addressed by the equivalent of Mr. Smith for instance, but as Mr. Andreas or Mr. Christos. Surnames are reserved for very formal occasions only. As with 'individual' names, surnames have a generational as well as a religious aspect.


Linking generations

I got different and contradictory information as to how surnames are passed on through the generations. Some people said that a family's surname is passed on in the same way it happens in Western Europe, i.e. from father to son. Other people claimed that the surname of a patrilineal family changes with every gene­ration. This system, I was told, goes like this. Keep in mind that for the moment I am talking of men only. I will touch on the gender aspect below. A male person's full name consists of, first, his surname which is his grandfathers first name transformed into a surname (put into the gerund); second, his own personal name taken over from preceding generations; and third, an additional first name which is the gerund of his father's first name. So in fact, surnames are not much different from first names. Both, a man's surname and his additional first name are teknonyms, identifying him as 'the grandson of such and such' and 'the son of such and such'. And since a boy often gets the grandfather's first name as his own and the same grandfather's firstname in the gerund form as his surname, a lot of men have names such as Georgos Georgiu, Alexandros Alexandru or Savas Sava. Surnames are, in this system, not fixed, but are constantly changing accor­ding to Ego's position. Let me give an example of the traditional Cypriot naming system.

Suppose a man is called Sava Neofytos Klitu, i.e. the grandson of Savas,  Neofytos, the son of Klitos.  Suppose further that every male individual gets a new  first name. The following patrilineal generations would be called as follows:


generation                           grandfather's name                Ego                        father's name

first                                        Sava                                                     Neofytos              Klitu

second                  Klitu                                                     Marios                Neofytu

third                      !ab Neofytu                                                Alexandros       Mariu

fourth                    Mariu                                    Dimitris                Alexandru

fifth                                       Alexandru                                        Andreas              Dimitri


Through the Greek-Cypriot naming system at least three patrilineal generations are linked. Every male Ego is linked to two generations before him, through his grandfather's and his father's name.

Suppose now, and this is the case more often than one might assume, the first son also gets his grandfather's first name. Then it would look like this:


generation                           grandfather's name                Ego                        father's name

first                                        Neofytu                                                Neofytos              Klitu

second                  Klitu                                                     Klitos                Neofytu

third                                      Neofytu                tab                 Neofytos              Klitu

fourth                    Klitu                                                     Klitos                Neofytu


The result is that every other male generation of first sons has exactly the same name. Thus, the generations are linked through an endless chain of names.

In most cases, names are a mixture of the two models just described. If one consi­ders the fact that male names are sometimes derived from female ones or from re­latives other than the grandparents or from saints, it becomes clear that there are not all that many cases - though there are - which would fit in neatly into the second model. However, the fact remains that both first and surnames are passed on through the generations thus linking them all together.

Having different information I inquired further as to which system is actually applied, the West European one or the one just described in which surnames constantly change. As it turned out, both systems are still in use. The confusion exists because there is no obligatory rule concerning surnames. Some people who told me that the Cypriot system - i.e. the one with altering surnames - was the right one either do not use it themselves - in this case they assumed that I was after the traditional system - or they abbreviate the father's first name to its initial (this might be an americanism), for example: Klitu N. Klitos. Accepted is whatever a person choses. Under certain circumstances, one and the same person can have different surnames in the course of her or his life. A friend of mine told me for example that his official surname first used to be Antoniadis. Later, he chopped off the end and called himself Antoniu, but in the military he was officially called Antonis. People interpreted the pros and cons of the traditional system diffe­rently. One man maintained as a pro that he would not like identifying with people many generations back whom he never knew. With the traditional naming system, one only identifies with one's immediate predecessors, one's grandfather and father. A contrary view was held by another man who prefers the new system, as he called it, because it maintains family lines, because a man's predecessors do not disappear.

The naming system is very flexible and open to all sorts of changes in general whether it be with first or with surnames as illustrated in the following exam­ples. One friend's maternal grandfather apparently, the story goes, very much liked to eat salad which was why he was called Salata by everyone. With time, Salata became the official family name, a fact I found hard to believe but which was proven to me by my friend showing me his identity card with both of his parents' names on it. His mother's maiden name actually read Salata. Another friend told me that his mother was born on St Vasilis' day, on the first of January. She was baptized Thekla. After her birth the family's cows suddenly died which was interpreted as a sign of the anger of St Vasilis because the girl had not been named after him. Henceforth, she was, in all official papers, called Vasiliki.


I have so far ignored the gender aspect of the Greek-Cypriot naming system. Obviously, the whole system is clearly patrilineal and patriarchal. A girl assumes her father's surname until she marries and afterward she takes on her husband's surname which itself is derived from male predecessors only. While prior to marriage, a woman is called after her grandfather (surname) and her father (additional first name) having thus two teknonyms in her full name as men do - for example a young woman may be called 'Georgiu Savulla Theoklitu', i.e. Savulla, the daughter of Theoklitos whose grandfather was Georgos' -, after marriage she adopts her husband's surname (which is derived from his grand­father's first name). She may additionally keep her father's first name (in the gerund form, Theoklitu in my example) thus being identified as the wife of such and such and the daughter of such and such. However, many women - and this has nothing to do with a feminist perspective - keep their maiden surname for years or for their entire life. Looking at the situation in the 1920s, Saint Cassia (1982: 650) notes that the women used to keep their father's surname after marrying. Apparently, this practice has been going on until today, at least in some cases. I know of a married woman for example who did not take on her hus­band's surname for twenty years after marrying him. She still had her maiden name in her passport until one day she had to get a new one and decided to adopt her husband's surname. I also heard of another woman who kept her maiden name all her life. But the naming system is patriarchal in that people are ex­clusively named after fathers and grandfathers.


Linking humans to the divine

As explained above, a lot of surnames are derived from first names[50]. And since most first names are derived from Orthodox saints, the surnames are, too. But there is yet another kind of religious attachment through surnames, this being the prefix Hadji which is particularly interesting because originally, it is a title given to Muslims who have pilgrimaged to Mecca. The Greek-Cypriots have transformed this Muslim title (meaning 'pilgrim') into a  Christian one given to those who have pilgrimaged to the Holy Land, have visited the Holy Sepulchre and have been baptized in the Holy River Jordan[51]. Hadji becomes the first part of the surname and is passed down the generations. There are a lot of surnames be­ginning with Hadji in Cyprus, such as Hadjipavlou, meaning: the grandson of Pavlos a predecessor of whose family has pilgrimaged to the Holy Land.


In conclusion one can maintain that first names as well as surnames combine aspects of generational and religious continuation.

Let me finish this section about the generational and religious aspects of names with an anecdote. One family I know is called Hadjiomorfos, omorfos meaning 'pretty'. The story goes that one of the family's predecessors was very pretty which is why everyone called him the omorfos.  Soon it became the family's surname. When a generation later his son travelled to the Holy Land, he was entitled Hadji. Ever since, the family's surname has been Hadjiomorfos, i.e. the pretty one who travelled to the Holy Land. In this case though, the official name has not changed, but nobody knows this family other than the Hadjiomorfos.


Ritual kinship


The second most important kind of relationship in Cyprus is ritual kinship, kumbaria[52]. Through baptism, non-kin are transformed into quasi-kin or ritual kin. Through baptizing a child, one becomes a spiritual co-parent to the child's physical parents. The two pairs of parents address each other as kumbaros  (male form) and kumera  (female form). Basically, everyone can become one's co-parent. Practically, friends and close family members such as brothers and sisters are often involved in this kind of relationship. Friends who are kumbari  (plural of kumbaros)become quasi-family, not family in the sense of consanguinity and affinity, but most definitely in a spiritual and an emotional sense. That kumbari are like kin is recognizable in the fact that the same rules of exogamy apply to them as to physical kin. Marriages between children of parents who are in a kumbaria relationship through baptism are forbidden (cf. Saint Cassia 1982: 645). Because godfathers and godmothers are ritual fathers and mothers, their children are like brothers and sisters and therefore cannot marry each other. Also, persons with the same godparent are considered ritual siblings and may therefore not marry each other. In order to avoid the hypothetical case of two people falling in love who are, unwittingly, ritual sister and brother, one only baptizes either girls or boys[53].

People who stand as witnesses to a couple getting married also become their kumbari , but this relationship is not as important as kumbaria through baptism and most of all, it does not have consequences in terms of exogamy. Children of kumbari through wedding may marry each other, because they are not consi­dered ritual siblings. If they were, the rule of exogamy would exclude a lot of po­tential marriage partners, because a couple may have up to a few dozens of  kumbari (men) and kumeres (women) standing witness to their marriage. The rule of exogamy due to kumbaria through weddings only applies to a couple's first kumbaros and first kumera who play a more important role, because ideally, these two people should become godfather (tatas) to the first and godmother (nunna) to the second child respectively born to the couple to whose wedding they were standing witness thus becoming their co-parents. 

The term kumbaros - this applies more to men than to women in my experience - is also used to address friends or even people one does hardly know. At first, I was very confused as to who exactly is a kumbaros of whom, because sometimes kumbare (vocative of kumbaros) is used as a general form of address. Thus like with kori (daughter), pedi (child) and mana mu (my mother), the quasi-kin rela­tionship of kumbaria is extended to people to whom it does not actually apply.


This chapter has made clear how much the notion of the family is bound up with the notion of religion which I will discuss in the next chapter.

After having discussed the significance of the family for Greek-Cypriots, I will now proceed to show how the notion of the family is employed in their reaso­ning about both Turkish-Cypriots and Turks.


2. Constructing group consciouness: The notion of the family


The notion of the family provides both ways of inclusion and exclusion.  I will first show how the Turkish-Cypriots are conceptually included into the group of insiders on the grounds of the Greek-Cypriot notion of the family. Then I will de­scribe how the Turks from mainland Turkey are excluded on the grounds of just that notion.


Inclusion of the Turkish-Cypriots



One point that was endlessly repeated and emphasized is the fact that Greek-Cypriots used to go to Turkish-Cypriot weddings and vice versa. Almost always, whether in interviews or on other occasions this was mentioned as one of the very first things.


!"... when the Turkish-Cypriot gets married, the Christian will go to his wedding, when the Greek-Cypriot marries, the Turkish-Cypriot will come, and we also have cases when the person playing the violin was a Turkish-Cypriot at a Greek wedding. ... my son plays violin and the father of his teacher played lute and he told me that he went to weddings where there was a Turkish violinist."


"We also went to Turkish weddings, certainly. When there was a wedding, a Turkish wedding we went and when there was a Greek wedding the Turkish-Cypriots came. And they had weddings just like the traditional Cypriot village wedding with violins, with ... they shaved the groom ... exactly the same Once we went to a Greek wedding and the barber who shaved the groom was a Turkish-Cypriot! It was the same in everything, the preparations, the same dances, when they danced around the bed, the same. Only they did not go to church, the Hodja came, ... yes, only that they didn't go to church."


"At that time there weren't ten couples dancing together, there was only one dancing the Cypriot wedding dance, a Turkish-Cypriot and a Greek-Cypriot. And later when the clothes were passed round, some were Turkish-Cypriots others Greek-Cypriots."


Traditionally, both the wedding clothes of the groom and the dress of the bride were passed around in the course of a particular dance before the couple was dressed in them.


"We celebrated our weddings together in the village. We (the Greek-Cypriot women) went to adorn their brides, they adorned us, we invi­ted them with a candle. We went to their houses, to every family and we brought the candles and said: ' I invite you to the wedding of my son, of my daughter.' And all of them came."


Love relationships

Even though only few Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots married each other, they had of course love relationships. One very interesting example is that of a Greek-Cypriot man married to a born Turkish-Cypriot woman of the same village. Before they got married they already had six children together. When in the 1960s they started to get teased in school because of their Turkish mother, then Ementé decided to get baptized. She became Maria and got married to her partner imme­diately afterwards. Particularly interesting is the attitude of her brothers and sisters which her husband described like this:par

"When I proposed to her father - I had Turkish-Cypriot friends who in­terceded for me - he agreed with our relationship and decided that I was going to be his son-in-law. 'It doesn't matter (that he is a Christian), his parents are good, our daughter shall live with him.' This went on like this until my father-in-law's death in 1954. We already had four children. After his death, arguments started with my brothers- and sisters-in-law. They didn't want to give us any land. Then Maria deci­ded to get baptized. And we married in 1965. The day my brothers- and sistes-in-law and her cousins heard that she had got baptized and that she had become Maria and that we had got married, they started to em­brace us brotherly! Much more than before. Things changed immedia­tely. They changed their opinion immediately. Since we had been married there weren't any problems anymore, and they started to love us."

The reason why this mixed couple had not been accepted at first by the Turkish-Cypriot relatives apparently had more to do with the fact that they were living together and having children without being married than with him being Greek-Cypriot and Christian. This examples hints at shared cultural values, at a shared notion of the family between Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots (and other Mediterra­nean people).


Ritual kinship

The same man who talked about his marriage to his born Turkish-Cypriot wife recalls the Turkish-Greek relationships in his village like this:


"And most people said kumbaros to each other. That's just how friend­ly we were with each other. We didn't have any differences, uncle Lambros, uncle Abdullah... without misunderstandings."


A 45-year-old man told me at least on three differnt occasions that when he got married in 1970, he had three Turkish-Cypriot kumbari. Of one of them he knows that he is abroad now, the other two left in 1974.

And finally, a 55 year-old refugee woman remembered her Turkish-Cypriot neighbours as follows:


"We only had few Turkish-Cypriots in our town, but opposite my house there was one Turkish-Cypriot woman who was like a mother for me, she practically brought me up. ... And when I got married, her son became my kumbaros."


Having in mind the significance of kumbaria relationships and their social  im­plications, it is clear that the above accounts document very close, family-like bonds between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots, although the relationship of kum­baria between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots could only be established through weddings, not through baptism. Obviously, the Orthodox church would not have accepted a Muslim as a godfather or -mother to a Christian child. But Turkish-Cypriots nevertheless used to attend Orthodox christianings. On the other hand, the Greek-Cypriots, at least in mixed villages, would join Muslim circumcision ceremonies (this was mentioned only by one woman, however).




The metaphor of the family

The notion of the family was very often extended to the Turkish-Cypriots in a metaphorical way. Statements such as 'we were like sisters', 'we were like a fami­ly' or 'she was like a mother to me' were part of many interviews with older and younger people.


"All Cypriots have the right to live in Cyprus. It is just like with a fa­mily. Would it be right for me to only give one daughter or one son land, if I had enough? Everyone has the right to live here."


Another man metaphorically paralleled the relationship between Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots to that of a marriage which must be saved for the sake of the children, the future generations:


"We don't have a future unless we live one next to the other with the Turkish-Cypriots. Imagine a married couple who argues. Maybe they would say that they were going to get divorced, and their friends would recommend them not to do so and they would say: 'It is not good that you want to divorce', and since they also have children, they under­stand that they have to find a solution in order to save the family. This is what we must do with the Turkish-Cypriots today."


Here is an impressionistic portrait of the man who made the above statement. When he was young, he did not use to think of the Turks as human beings. He used to  be - these are his own words - very extreme. When the war happened in 1974, he was taken prisoner by the Turkish army at the age of twenty-three. He spent two months in Turkish prisons. It was there, being a prisoner of the Tur­kish army, that he realized that Turkish people are human beings just as himself. Ironically, he got to know them as people rather than as Turks being their priso­ner. He recently published his experiences as a prisoner writing about human gestures by Turkish officers as well as about their powerlessness. It was in prison that he started to write poems. The following one, written in 1974 shortly after he was released, won a price at a student competition at the University of Athens in 1975 .





ADERFIKH NOTA                           BROTHERLY NOTE            


Mecmet se luphq1hka                        Mehmet I felt sorry for  you

otan trabouses to loupi sfikta                        when you tightened the belt

pisqaggona, gia na me deseis.                        to strap my hands behind my back.

Otan sklh3982ra me ktuphses sto koutello                        When you strongly hit my forehead

me tis groqies sou.                        with your fists.

To blemma mou se tromaxe, qumam!ai,                        My look frightened you, I remember,

phre th dunamh sou kai thn epnixe,                        it took your strength and drowned it

mes sto pikro parapono mou.                        in my bitter complaint.

Me koita-3976xes neurika, me narkwmenh  skeyh,                        You looked at me nervously, with numb thoughts,

ki exallas xanalaktises ta spasmena pleura mou.2e        and frantically,  you once again kicked on my broken ribs.

Ponesa, ma den orgisthka Mecmet,                        I was in pain , but I did not get angry, Mehmet,

Ta dakria mou htan gia sena.                        my tears were for you.

Den hmou-3986n sklabos sou ...                        I was not your slave ...

H sklabia baraine kai sena,                        Slavery burdened you too,

sthn idia agora mas xepoulhsane,                        they sold us on the same market,

Meecmeeet.                        Meehmeeet.   


(Artemhs Antwniou)[54]                        (Artemis Antoniou 1974 ; my translation[55])



This is how the Turkish-Cypriots are included by means of the Greek-Cypriot notion of the family. The Turkish from the mainland on the other hand are ex­cluded on the grounds of just that notion.



Lack of respect for ancestral sites

One thing that was endlessly stressed was the destruction of ancestral sites by the Turks. These being first of all cemeteries in the now occupied North, the former homeland of many thousand Greek-Cypriot refugees, and archaeological sites both in the North and in Asia Minor. Certainly hellenocentric people, but a lot of cypriocentric people as well consider themselves the descendants of the ancient Greeks. As mentioned above, most people sense a double identity of being both Greek and Cypriot. Consider the following statements by two fairly hellenocentric persons. (Recall the creation of the Greek nation as a family by means of naming children after ancient heros and gods.)


"To tell the truth, I don't feel myself to be Cypriot, I feel that I am a Greek of Cyprus. ...You are obliged to follow your people, because a people is like a river which flows. And if you try to swim against this river, it means that you are lost. You are obliged to swim with your own river. ... ethnos means tradition, means history. And a human being who has arrived at a particular moment has a long way behind him, he has continuity, that's why it is a mistake for me to say that I am 45 years old, I am 5000 years old, just like the history of my people. Because what the old, the ancestors have lived penetrates me without me noticing it."


"I tell you, unfortunately, the Turks don't respect anything, those from Turkey, neither crucifixes and cemeteries, nor old things and bones."


And here is a statement of a very clearly cypriocentric and politically left elderly man talking about the losses caused by the Turkish invasion in 1974:


"Even though we are much better off here than the Turkish-Cypriots in the North, we cannot forget what we lost: our properties, our houses, the tombs of our grandfathers, we cannot forget these things." !


The destruction of archaological sites and of cemeteries is an attack on one's pre­decessors, on the family itself, on past and present generations. It violates one of the most fundamental notion in Cyprus, that of the family.




Men as often as women claimed that the Turks not only raped a lot of women during different times of war with Greece or Cyprus, but also that they rape their own women. Moreover, they are believed to be violent to their own family members, i.e. inside the house. The issue of rape also hints at the Greek-Cypriot notion of the family being attacked. The shame brought upon a woman who is raped not only affects herself, but her whole family. It is the family honour[56] and its integrity which is at stake.


"A woman's body thus becomes the symbol of family inte­grity and purity and, more generally, of society as a whole" (Dubisch 1986b: 210-11).


Through rape, a woman's body is polluted. The pollution of her body is concep­tually linked to the pollution of her entire family and of the house (see below). Rape is not only a physical violation of women, but also a mental and symbolic violation of the fundamental value of family integrity, and thus an attack on the whole Greek-Cypriot society.


Other aspects of exclusion

In the following example Turkish-Cypriots, not Turks, are excluded on the basis of the notion of the family. The account was given to me by a now 41-year-old woman from a formerly mixed village recalling what happened to her sister as a result of intercommunal violence in the 1960s. I will take up her differentiation between Turkish-Cypriots from her own village and from 'outside' again in the concluding chapter. For the moment, note the way she uses the notion of the fa­mily to distinguish between in- and outsiders, between good and bad.


"The Turkish-Cypriots from the neighbouring village, not from our village, they were good, but those from the other Turkish-Cypriot village they attacked us, and they shot at our door. My mother was six months pregnant and gave birth early becauses she was so afraid."


She continues her story telling me how that baby was handicapped and how this caused a lot of problems for her mother and the whole family. Finally, her sister  died through a series of tragic events at the age of twenty-six. She concludes:


"And all of this happened to us because of the Turkish-Cypriots from this other village. If that had not happened, she would have been married now, wouldn't she?"


What she wants to express with her final remark is that she has been deprived of reaching one of the most important goals in life for Greek-Cypriots, to marry and to establish a new family, to ensure the continuation of the family. The attacking Turkish-Cypriots have deprived her of being a person in its fullest sense.

Finally, one 20-year-old woman mentioned the fact that Muslim men, and thus Turkish-Cypriots too, can have several wives as a factor separating  Greek- from Turkish-Cypriots, because having more than one wife is of course incompatible with the Greek-Cypriot idea of marriage and family.



3. Summary


To summarize, Greek-Cypriots employ the notion of the family both to include the Turkish-Cypriots in the group defined as insiders and to exclude the Turks (and rarely Turkish-Cypriots) from it.

The notion of the family is one of the most fundamental ones in Cypriot culture. The family includes both consanguines and affines and is generally considered to be of crucial importance for the well-being of an individual. Through family rituals, naming practices and ritual kinship, the individual is firmly placed with­in a network of meaning referring to the earthly as well as to the divine family.



[ content | chapter 3 ]

 II  The notion of religion


1. Constructing group-consciousness: The notion of religion


One of the recurring themes in interviews as well as on other occasions was reli­gion. By this I do not mean religion in the sense of 'we are Orthodox Christians, they are Muslims, that's why we have a problem'. Nobody ever said anything like that. On the contrary, people across age groups, political positions and educa­tional backgrounds agreed that religion is no obstacle for two religious communi­ties to harmoniously live together. One man for example recalled having gone to the Tekke in Larnaka, an important Muslim holy site together with Turkish-Cypriots as a child. A baptized born Turkish-Cypriot woman remembered that for forty years the sexton of the church in their mixed village used to be a Turkish-Cypriot, i.e. a Muslim. The fact as such that someone has a different religion than one's own is not seen as being of any importance at all. What counts is the hu­man being, the person, regardless of their creed and faith. Not once I heard the opposite.


"God does not distinguish between people or religions. When Christ came to earth he looked at all people in the same way. He did not di­stinguish between peoples or races."


!0Let me quote what one man said at the very beginning of our interview:


"I once heard a most wise statement from my mother I have never read in any book. She said about a Turkish-Cypriot who had died: 'God may make him happy in his faith.' The Turkish-Cypriot was a friend of the family, and if someone is a good person then we say in Greek 'God may make him happy' which means God may make him happy in the life after where he is. This wish we only make for good people. And this has made a great impression on me, what my mother had said, 'in his faith', which means: may God make him happy in accordance to what he believed and not in accordance to what we be­lieve. This statement I find very wise."


And this is what one of the two young women I referred to in the previous chap­ter said when asked about the role of religion concerning intercommunal rela­tions:

"It's not because of their religion. Next door to my aunt there lives a Syrian family, we are very friendly with, they come to our house ... we are friends, but, okay, if they were Turks, I don't know, how it would be then, I don't know, if ..."


The only occasion religion was sometimes talked of as a factor separating Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots was when people regretted that, due to their respective re­ligious laws, Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots could not marry. Marriages between Muslims and Christians were only possible if either the Muslim partner became Christian or the Christian Muslim. Mixed marriages were therefore rare, but not unheard of. During an interview with an approximately 40-year-old woman I asked her whether she considered religion to play any role concerning the rela­tionship between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots. She first answered that religion did indeed cause problems for their relationship. When I inquired about what exactly the problems were, she explicated:


"I believe that it didn't hinder them simply living together. But since they were not able to establish families..., if you establish families toge­ther you also establish closer relationships, don't you? If you establish a family, your family together with mine, then relationships will develop with your relatives, with my relatives. But if you cannot say 'I will join your family', you will distance yourself more and more."


The lack of family bonds between Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots was commented on by an elderly man like this:


"They (the Turkish-Cypriots) told us openly that it was a mistake on their forefathers' part having started this Turkish community, because had they not been Muslims they would have become our sympetheri (co-parents-in-law). We would have married each other, that's how good our relationships were."


As many other Greek-Cypriots, this man believes that the Turkish-Cypriots are in fact Greek-Cypriots who converted to Islam to avoid the high taxes imposed on Christians by the Ottomans.

One woman born in 1960 was sceptical to marriages between a Muslim and a Christian because she feared that the children would not get baptized.

These concerns about religious difference are not caused by the Turkish-Cypriots being Muslims as such. The Greek-Cypriots are concerned that, as a consequence of the Turkish-Cypriots' being Muslims, family bonds are difficult to establish and that children may not get baptized. Having the importance of the ikojenia in mind, it is understandable why Greek-Cypriots view the lack of family bonds as a problem.

However, religion is a crucial aspect in the process of constructing group con­sciouness, of inclusion and exclusion, of belonging. I will first look at religion as an integrative theme.


Inclusion of Turkish-Cypriots


Religious feasts 

On countless occasions and without having mentioned religion myself I was told that Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots used to celebrate the religious feasts of both communities jointly. They would also help each other out with herding animals during their respective celebrations. Turkish-Cypriots would herd the Greek-Cypriots' sheep and goats during Easter and Christmas, while the Greek-Cypriots would do the same for the Turkish-Cypriots during Ramadan, and in the eve­nings they would celebrate together. Let me quote one amusing example in which a 40-year-old man recalls his friendship with a Turkish-Cypriot he spent a lot of time with during his childhood and youth:


"When for us it was Christmas, we joked and we asked him to come to our house to eat pork which of course they are not allowed to eat, be­cause their religion forbids it, and we made jokes, you know ... 'why don't you come to my house to eat pork and drink wine'. "


He roguishly laughed telling me this. The way he could tease his Muslim friend about religious rules itself hints at an atmosphere of mutual tolerance.



Particularly one Orthodox saint is said to have been believed in and worshipped by the Turkish-Cypriots, too. This is Apostle Andreas. There lies an important monastery on the now Turkish occupied Karpasia peninsula dedicated to him which often was the destination of joint excursions after a season' work picking citrus fruit (from September until May) on plantations where Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots, mostly women, used to work side by side.


"They brought us to Kakopetria (a mountain village) where we went to the place of pilgrimage of a saint and they ... the Turkish-Cypriots wan­ted to go to the Panagia (the All Holy) of the Kykko monastery[57]. One Turkish-Cypriot woman said to us: 'Let's go to the Panagia of the Kykko monastery. Well, the Turkish-Cypriot doesn't believe, does he? He is a Muslim. But she wanted to go to the Kykko monastery! In order to go to the Panagia, she believed in the Panagia. Later they brought us to the church of St John the Baptist. And we went, you will not believe this, they crossed themselves the way we do and prayed, the Turkish-Cypriots! They went inside the church, crossed themselves and prayed! ... They prayed at our icons! They also believed in our religion! Yes, they were Muslims, but they believed. And in Apostle Andreas, the Turkish-Cypriots, the Turks of Cyprus, they believed in the Apostle Andreas very much. He is the saint they believe in... whichever Turkish-Cypriot you ask ..."


The woman who said this is 41 years old. She grew up in an exclusively Greek-Cypriot village with close contacts to the neighbouring Turkish-Cypriot village. Herself and her family are now refugees. They have lost house and land. Together with her husband, she has worked very hard over the past twenty years in order to build a new house for themselves. This task has very recently been completed. She suffers from the fact that her family is spread all over Cyprus now and that, being a refugee, she will not be able to give her children any land and her daugther a house. She has lost her first child when it was two years old and she attributes her son's death to someone having, though unwittingly, cast the Evil Eye on him. She is a devout Orthodox Christian and follows religious practi­ces throughout the year.


Good people can have the Evil Eye without wanting to, because one unwillingly gets caught by it. If this happens, one may cause harm to other people when looking at them or talking about them. A variety of charms against the Evil Eye are worn by many Greek-Cypriots, particularly blue beads are thought to protect the wearer against evil. The belief in non-Christian forces such as the Evil Eye merges with Christianity in a number of areas in Cyprus[58].

Even a 67-year-old man who has been a communist and atheist all of his life - he makes slightly fun of his wife and other old women going to church every Sunday - chose the fact that the Turkish-Cypriots went along with their Greek-Cypriot colleagues to the monastery of the Apostle Andreas and that they prayed there as an example to illustrate the unity of Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots. The same point was made by yet another (approximately 45-year-old) man who says of himself that he does 'not believe in the church'. He claimed that while the Greek-Cypriots spent the entire day of such a workers' excursion to the mona­stery in the kafenion, the Turkish-Cypriots would pray and worship the Christian saint for which he gives them credit. 

One woman who comes from a formerly mixed village explained to me that the Turkish-Cypriots believe the Panagia to have been a Muslim originally because of the way she is dressed which resembles much more the traditional clothing of a Turkish than that of a Greek woman. The Turkish-Cypriots believed in the Panagia , she continued, as well as in the village's saint (Saint Barbara) to the church of whom they donated icons and chairs. Not only did the Turkish-Cypriots worship Orthodox saints, they are even said to have believed more than many Greek-Cypriots[59]. One woman was particularly eloquent on this.


" There was one Turkish-Cypriot in our village ... this man ... it had been raining since the morning, slowly, slowly, and in the afternoon it was raining very heavily and the river rose, but he had not reckoned with this ... and as he came to the river there was a lot of water ... and he sent his goats and his donkey into the river, and his cows and he said: 'Holy Panagia, help me to cross the river.' And there was some­thing like a gust of air, he told us, and it took him out of the river, and he was wet, and he went to thank her, he went to the church, and he told us about it when he later came to the kafenion, ... you know, they believed very strongly! They believed more than us! And his wife went, too, and she had a bath beforehand, she said that one must take a bath immediately before one enters the church in order to be clean, and she took off her shoes in front of the church and she worshipped (the icons), she filled all candles with oil ... and this man (the one who had been saved) said that at night, not always, but mostly, he saw a light ... and that it entered the church through the door. This he always saw and he said that it was the Panagia. This is how much they believed. They believed very much! We, however, believe but... does it ever happen that you take a bath and then immediatly go to church? Like ourselves (her husband and herself) yesterday, we had a bath in the morning and went to church in the evening, didn't we (it was Easter time and I had been to church together with them the night before)? One has to take a bath and to go clean, of all sins, a woman should not have her period, you know, nowadays we go, they (the Turkish-Cypriot women) did not, it is a sin to go to the crucifix inside the church, it is a holy place. We nowadays go, but the Turkish-Cypriot women did not, nor into the mosque. They didn't go (when they were menstruating), and when they went they took off their shoes."


In another conversation she added that the Turkish-Cypriots used to fast more properly according to their own religion than the Greek-Cypriots according to theirs. I would like to complement these statements by a brief impressionistic portrait of the woman who made them.


This 41-year-old woman comes from a formerly mixed village in Southern Cyprus and now lives in Lemesos. Because she is related to a family in Pafos she came to spend Easter with them this year. But she was not happy with the way things happened. She had not fasted properly and she had not gone to church at the proper times either. Therefore, she felt that she was neither mentally nor physically  clean enough to take the Holy Communion on Easter morning. She was very sad about not having practiced Easter properly this year, about not having been able to take the most important Holy Communion of the Orthodox year. She also criticized the way the congregation rushed to get the communion so that there was no space to worship the icons first, which is the proper way to do it. Those of her family who went to take the communion she pressed not to do so unless they had gone to worship the holy icons beforehand. She was disappointed that they nevertheless did.


Talking about the political situation of Cyprus, the same woman I have just por­trayed emphasized how much the Turkish-Cypriots who have been forced to abondon their homes want to come back to live together with the Greek-Cypriots again. In the following account she talks about one of those rare occasions when Turkish-Cypriots get permission to come to the South for a visit to meet family members giving them credit for their religiousness:


"They came and they crossed themselves and they bent down to the earth and said 'Allah' and they said 'help us that we can come back here'."


To these repeatedly emphasized factors pointing to the religiously motivated inclusion of the Turkish-Cypriots I would like to add another statement by one of my informants and to portray him briefly.


"If someone is rooted in their religion and in their homeland, then this person has nothing to fear... Those who can interprete/understand our religion, live very well with the Muslims, it is those who do not understand it who blame the Muslims and ... and for the Muslims who cannot interprete the Koran correctly and what it tells them, we are to blame due to our religion. Neither do we read the Gospel rightly if we constantly have conflicts. For both the Koran and the Gospel say that one should never do any harm to anybody, one should never start a conflict. The difference is that the Koran tells the Muslim to defend himself by every means if attacked, but our religion does not allow us ... only if you attack me in my house, then I may defend myself, but outside of my house, whatever you say to me, I will bend and leave, I will not attack you, outside of my house, only if you come into my house, and in regard to that, the Koran forbids you to enter a house without having been asked to do so! This is what it says, yes, the Koran forbids the Muslim to enter a house, by all means, without having been invited to do so, and it says that you have to call someone before you go in, that you call him so that he can open the door for you."




Like the two women I have portrayed above, this man has not gone through higher education. But he has educated himself very thoroughly by means of rea­ding. He is now 60 years old. Before he became a refugee, he was a wealthy land­owner and businessman. He lost everything he possessed. He also lost two of his three children at a young age due to illness and an accident. One of these children is buried in a cemetery in the North, so that his parents have been unable to visit his grave ever since 1974. Himself and his wife now live in a formerly Turkish-Cypriot house on Turkish-Cypriot land. They are well aware that it is not theirs. Economically, they live from what they earn by making cheese. The bulk of  his time, he now spends reading newspapers and discussing politics. He has read a Greek translation of the Koran which makes him very exceptional. He is clearly on the cypriocentric, anti-hellenocentric line and he is also interested in bicom­munal work going on in the capital. He is one of the very few people I met who criticizes and blames the Greek-Cypriot leadership as much as the Turkish-Cypriot one for what happened.


Apart from the Turkish-Cypriots believing in Christian saints and worshipping them, many people also mentioned that quite a lot of Turkish-Cypriots had be­come baptized Christians.


These are the processes by which an integrity between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots is constructed by employing religious values. But religion is used in order to express the opposite as well; it is invoked in the process of excluding the Turks from the mainland and the Turkish-Cypriot political leadership collabora­ting with them from the group defined as insiders which includes both Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots.


Exclusion of Turks


The destruction of holy sites

Along with the destruction of ancestral sites already referred to in the chapter about the family, the destruction of holy sites, of monasteries and churches, was endlessly stressed. On the one hand, people pointed to the fact that they them­selves, i.e. their own government would never harm any mosque or Muslim cemetery in the South, but that they leave the Muslim sites the way they were or even properly maintain them. On the other hand, Christian churches and mona­steries are said to have been intentionally destroyed by the Turks and the Turkish-Cypriot leadership ever since the division of Cyprus in 1974. Not only do they not maintain the Greek-Cypriots' holy sites, they also convert churches into mosques or worse, they use them as pigsties and pens. This of course is the ulti­mate disrespect in the eyes of Orthodox Christians. The destruction of the church of Saint Sofia in former Constantinople[60] by the Ottoman conquerors is seen as an early, but particularly tragic and indicative example of the Turks' lack of respect for other people's holy sites. And not only do the Turks destroy churches and monasteries, they also steal the holy icons out of them and sell them abroad.

The destruction of holy sites is central in the Greek-Cypriots' process of excluding the Turks. The protection and maintenance of Muslim holy sites in the South is invoked in order to emphasize the difference between in- and outsiders.


Islamic fanaticism

Furthermore, Islamic fanaticism is conceived as a major threat to the whole world by many Greek-Cypriots today. In order to lend their argument credibility, people refer to recent news. In contrast to the Turks and other Muslims, the Turkish-Cypriots are remembered as not having been religiously fanatical. Reli­gious fanaticism is thus used as a means to distinguish Turks from Turkish-Cypriots. One man who is himself happily married to a woman of different faith to his own made the following statement.


"Here you see my wife, she is from another country, from another natio­nality, she has another religion, what keeps us from being a happy family ? But if she were to get up tomorrow and to say that her religion is better, or if I would get up, that would be the same. I also respect the mosque, one has to accept the other the way he is. But they (the Turks) have turned our churches into mosques and have destroyed our holy icons."


The killing of holy people

In history classes, the killing and hanging of Christian priests and deacons in the course of rebellions directed against the Ottoman rulers gets literally drummed into children.  Since the Ottoman conquerors in the 16th century are conceptually linked to the Turkish conquerors of 1974, their actions become an argument for the exclusion of Turks today. Thus, if priests were killed by the Ottomans four hundred years ago, the Turks of today surely do the same. While the common powerless folk of the Ottomans' descendents, i.e. the Turkish-Cypriots, are not counted as being part of this conceptual continuity, the same differentiation is not made in regard to the Turks today. Most Greek-Cypriots lump them all toge­ther without distinguishing between different social groups for example on the grounds of an alleged common character or the lack of education and hence civi­lization.


In order to fully grasp the meaning of the Greek-Cypriots' references to religion in their reasoning about both Turkish-Cypriots and Turks, one has to be aware of the central position religion holds within Greek-Cypriot culture which I now turn to describe.


2. Religion within Greek-Cypriot culture


The significance of religion


!rid Religious syncretism - discussed in the literature under the heading of the lino­bambaki, the Cryptochristians under Ottoman rule[61] and hinted at by many in­formants - did not occur just in the past, but is going on at present as well, if to a very limited extent due to the political situation[62]. A nice example of present forms of religious syncretism I encountered with a Turkish-Cypriot man who lives in a village outside of Pafos. He is well integrated in Greek-Cypriot society. I happened to take the same bus as him shortly before Easter. Since everyone sits in front and chats with each other on Pafos buses, it was not very difficult for me to start a conversation. As it turned out, he goes to church at Easter time as everyone else does, despite the fact that he has not been baptized and that he is a Muslim. I was a little amazed to hear this, but to him going to church at Easter is completely natural and hardly worth mentioning. The only comment on his part was: "Why not?"


As with the significance of the family, there is abundant evidence of the impor­tance of religion in Mediterranean societies in the available literature. In fact, the notions of religion and of the family are, as hopefully has already become clear, intimately linked. Many authors[63] have shown this. In Du Boulay's words:


"The true function, then, of the earthly family is to be an icon of the Holy Family in which the husband, the wife and the child, are earthly representatives of Christ the man, Christ the child, and the Mother of God." (1986: 166)


All religious rituals in Cyprus are strongly bound up with the family because they are celebrated amongst family members although other people such as friends and colleagues may join in as well. How much family bonds are established and soli­dified through practicing religion jointly, became particularly clear to me on one occasion when friends of mine took their newly gained sympetheri (co-parents-in-law) to the church of the husband's native village. It was the nameday of the village saint who is said to be able to cure eye illnesses. So, my friends took their affines there in order to worship her thus strengthening family ties through sha­ring faith and religious practices with each other.


In Cyprus, it is not only old women who have a concern in the Christian faith. The Orthodox religion is extremely important for, I am convinced, almost all Greek-Cypriots, regardless of their age or background. Though older women are in fact represented in church in larger numbers than other social groups, I have met very few Greek-Cypriots indeed who say of themselves that they do not be­lieve in Christianity. It is quite unthinkable for a Greek-Cypriot person not to attend at least one or two Easter church services and to perform the veneration of the saints. Believing in God is so completely natural to Greek-Cypriots that no­body ever asked me whether I was a Christian myself; this was simply assumed, although when I went to church with them - which I did many times particularly around Easter - I did not perform myself, I only watched what was going on.  What Loizos tells us about the situation in a Cypriot village in the 1970s, still holds true today:


"Everybody married in church. Even though there was a sizeable number of villagers ... who were communists, socia­lists, or called themselves 'modern' or 'progressive', and even though the men among them could be brought to say that they did not think God existed, that religion was largely superstition, that the Church owned far too much property and should care better for the poor, it was notable that no cases came to my knowledge of anyone - right, centre, or left - refusing to have his children baptised, to marry in church[64], or to have his old people buried by the priest. ... If prodded about belief, most villagers spoke as if God existed, and that was that, just as they knew that Nicosia existed." (Loizos 1981: 34-5)


For Greek-Cypriots, believing is tantamount to being a righteous person. I am sure that it is much harder for them to accept a person without any faith than accepting someone who believes in a deity other than the Christian god. That is why Greek-Cypriots respect Turkish-Cypriots for their faith in Allah.

In order to illustrate the significance of the notion of religion for Greek-Cypriots and its impact on daily life, I will briefly describe the most important religious rituals during the Orthodox year as I experienced them in Pafos.


Religious rituals throughout the Orthodox year


Most religious rituals take place during the winter months. One celebration follows the other in this time between December and the end of the Easter period some­time in April or May with a break of about one and a half months in January or February. Orthodox religious activity centers around the two major complexes of Christmas and Easter which is the most important celebration in Orthodoxy.

The month of December is full of days dedicated to Orthodox saints. Because most people are namesakes of an Orthodox saint, as described in the previous chapter, there are a lot of nameday celebrations going on in the weeks prior to Christmas. Orthodox Christians are supposed to fast for forty days prior to Christmas which itself is a mixture of attending church services, strolling around town and enjoying good and plenty of food. On New Year's Eve, St Vasilis is believed to come and to bring the children presents. Epiphany Day on the sixth of January - i.e. the celebration of Jesus'  baptism - is called 'The lights' (ta fota), because the Holy Spirit is be­lieved to have appeared in the form of a pigeon illuminating the sky on this day. From the church service in the morning people take a burning candle symboli­zing the Holy Light home with them and a few drops of the Holy Water which has been blessed by the priest. This they keep throughout the year, because it is be­lieved to cure illnesses and to bless the house. I was told that this Holy Water does not become murky as normal water does after some time. But before going home, people walk in a procession to the harbour of Pafos. In the cere­mony taking place there, priests as well as politicians and the army play a part. The high spot of the celebration has come when the priest throws a big cross into the sea followed by five courageous young men dressed in swim­ming trunks only (it is January after all) who try to capture the cross. This se­quence is repeated several times. After the ritual part of the celebration, one goes home in order to feast together with relatives and friends. After an opulent meal, the housewife blesses everyone present with incense. As with other religious celebra­tions, ta fota is a combination of religion, family and food, taking place in the house. With the celebration of the baptism of Jesus, the first ritual period has come to its end.

Between the end of the Christmas cycle and the beginning of Easter, there is the Carnival period including two All Soul's days (psychosavvato) at the end of it. Another two of these collective memorials for the dead take place during the Easter period.

The Easter cycle begins forty days before the Holy Easter Week. Then, on The first Monday of Lent (kathara deftera, Clean/Pure Monday), the fast officially begins and is to go on until midnight on Easter Eve (see the chapter about food below). During this period, there is an increased number of church services going on, particularly the Panagia (the All Holy) is worshipped every Friday evening. During the Holy Week before Easter Eve, practically everyone, young and old, goes to church at least twice or three times and most people fast in order to cleanse themselves, though some of them emphasize that they take Lent as an opportunity to get rid of a few pounds or simply 'to clean out the system' once a year. However, practically everyone sticks to the rule of fasting during the Holy Week, i.e. not eating any animal products. If there is one time during the year that one just has to go to church, it certainly is during the Holy Week. Teenagers
do this with the same friends they also go to parties and discos with.

On Holy Thursday, the icons in the churches are covered with black cloth as a sign of grief. The first of several very important church services during this time takes place. As always in Orthodox churches, women and men stand separately, sometimes the men stand in front and the women in the back of the church, sometimes the women to the left and the men to the right. People of all ages are present, from crying babies to elderly people barely able to walk. Some read along with the liturgy delivered by the priest and the psaltes, the church singers. The faithful get blessed with incense. A the end of the service, men go first to worship the icons of Jesus and the Panagia in the front, then women file along kissing them. In the church yard, there is a little funfair going on and children burn Bengal lights. If possible, people take the Holy Communion on Thursday because this communion is believed to be the holiest of all.

On Good Friday, the en­tombment of Christ is commemorated in a procession the centre of which is the worshipping of the epitafios, a holy cloth depicting the entombment of Christ in silver embroidery. Women who happen to be menstruating are neither allowed to worship the epitafios nor any other icon. Only eight days after their period are they said to be ritually clean again. This applies not only to the Easter Week, but to Orthodox practices in general. Nowa­days, a lot of menstruating women, I believe, passively attend church services somewhere in the back of the church. But they do not come near the epitafios nor any holy icon.

On Easter Saturday morning, the mirofores - the women who came to clean and perfume the dead body of Christ (literally: 'those who bring pleasant scent') - are said to have first discovered that Christ had risen. The first time during the church service on Saturday morning the glad tidings of Christ's resurrection are proclaimed by the priest shouting Anastasi, resurrection, the black cloths are pulled off the holy icons and everyone stands up and makes a lot of noise flap­ping the wooden pews up and down. This is repeated every time the priest announces Christ's resurrection again. The noise was explained to me as symbo­lizing either the massive stone in front of Christ's tomb rolling away or else the earth quake caused by it. It is the first celebration of Christ's resurrection. At the end of the church service, the Holy Communion is offered. Afterwards, the women spend their day preparing flaunes, a special kind of Easter bread made with grated cheese and raisins. The resurrection of Christ is celebrated a second time on Saturday night which is the high spot of the whole Easter cycle. After his resurrection had been discovered by the women who came to wash and perfume his body, the message took a whole day to get spread and acknowledged which is why the final ceremony takes place on Saturday night only. At about eleven o'clock at night, the church bells start to ring. Since a lot of people find no place inside the church, they gather on the church yard holding candles. A big fire symbolizing the bur­ning of Judas has been lit there and sometimes, a dolly of the traitor is burnt. When Christ's resurrection is finally announced exactly at mid­night, the Holy Light starts to be passed around lighting all the candles in turn. Firework goes off and people kiss and wish each other Christos anesti, Christ has risen, a form of greeting which will go on until forty days after Easter. For schoolchildren and teenagers, the Saturday night ceremony is at the same time as being a religious ritual an occasion for having fun. After the liturgy has come to an end, or before, people go home carrying the Holy Light with them. On their arrival at their house, they bless it by tracing the shape of a cross above the door with the bur­ning candle which is kept throughout the year and may be lit to protect the house from thunder and lightning and other dangers. Then, each family joins to eat the Easter rice soup and some sort of meat for the first time again after the Lent. The rest of the Easter celebration, another three days, is mainly a matter of feasting and eating lots of rosted lamb and other kinds of nutricious food. Apart from that, there are many fun-fairs on church yards and organized party games going on.

The period preceding Easter Eve night is characterized by abstinence and reflec­tion. Following the celebration of Chirst's resurrection, Easter turns into a collec­tive feast of sociability.

The only really important religious date during the other half of the year between May and December is The Assumption of Mary on the fifteenth of August four­teen days prior to which Greek-Cypriots are supposed to fast again. After this ce­lebration, collective religious activity is taken up again in December.

During the Orthodox year, there are a number of church services of minor im­portance - such as those related to different stages in the life of the Panagia - in which a lot of people of all ages take part.


On occasions such as religious rituals or family celebrations such as namedays or a child's birthday, women and men tend to sit spacially segregated. The more people present, the more likely the women sit at one end of a long table while the men sit at the other. Also, women only drink very little or no alcohol, while the men drink pure brandy as if it was wine. After the main course of a meal, the women sometimes gather in the kitchen to help with the dishes or with prepa­ring more food. They may also have their coffee there spending their time by reading each other's fortune from the remaining coffee-grounds - the little cup is turned upside down for this purpose - though not many women actually believe in this.


Religion and politics


Religion is given further weight in Cyprus by the fact that it is intimately and firmly linked to politics[65]. Political leaders legitimize themselves through re­course to religion. The best example of the marriage between religion and politics is the late President and Archbishop Makarios (he died in 1977). His still immense popularity is partly due to him having been the Archbishop of the in­dependent church of Cyprus at the same time as holding the highest political office. The close link between church and state politics is observable on nume­rous occasions. For example when national heros are commemorated during church service, when the president of the Republic of Cyprus attends Epiphany Day standing next to the Archbishop, when on the 30th January the three prelates who are said to have joined the Orthodox religion with the Greek language, i.e. Christianity with Hellenism, are commemorated, when in preparation for natio­nal holidays of both Greece and Cyprus the church yards and the interior of chur­ches are decorated with Greek and Cypriot flags. The 25th of March is both the most important Greek national holiday celebrated in Cyprus as well (the present government of Glafkos Kleridis is a hellenocentric one) and the date of the Annunciation of Mary.

The importance of religion in the Greek-Cypriot context and its linkage with poli­tics became clear to me once again when, in Spring 1996, a very popular Archi­mandrite was accused of being a homosexual by the Archbishop and hence sus­pended from running for the vacant office of bishop of Morfu (in the North). For two months, during which the debate was in the headline news, angry sup­porters of the alleged homosexual demonstrated against the decision of the Archbishop who is believed to have suspended the Archmandrite for reasons of corruption and self-interest by many people. It is quite remarkable what a storm the suspen­sion of an Archimandrite was able to cause, finally forcing the Archbishop to give in.

In order to convince, church as much as state politics must anchor themselves in cultural notions and values, such as the family.


"... the Church has played up the Holy Family precisely be­cause it cannot effectively combat the power of the earthly one, and 'family' is the most powerful metaphor we have for expressing love, commitment, and association."

(Loizos 1981: 39).


3. Summary


To summarize, the notion of religion is employed by Greek-Cypriots to reason about both Turkish-Cypriots and Turks. It is central to the processes leading to in- and exclusion, to group-consciousness and belonging.

Religion figures very prominently in Greek-Cypriot culture and thought. Its sig­nificance is constantly restated and recreated in religious rituals throughout the year and in the intermingling of religion and politics.



[ content | chapter 3 ]

IV  The notion of work


1. The significance of work within Greek-Cypriot culture


Economic situation


Yet another culturally central notion is that of work and working. First of all, I would like to draw attention to the fact that at least lower strata Greek-Cypriots have to work very hard in order to pay for their expenses. While the cost of living is little less than in England for example, busdrivers or waitresses, cham­bermaids and receptionists in hotels or salespersons - and a lot of people have jobs like this because the Cypriot economy lives on tourism to a great extent - but also librarians for example earn about 400 Cypriot Pounds a month (1 Cypriot Pound equals approximately 1.45 British Pounds in 1996) working forty hours  a week. New employees often start with a salary of not even 300 Cypriot Pounds. Often, people work either very long hours - in summertime during the tourist season up to fourteen or even sixteen hours a day - or they have two jobs, one during the day and another one in the evening working in a restaurant for example. Except for well off families, both partners usually work full-time. Although the economic prosperity of Cyprus is generally admired, this should not obscure the fact that statistical data illustrating the economic growth and boom in Cyprus say little about the daily economic struggles of a lot of people. I often wondered how they make ends meet.

That women work outside the house, is an economic constraint for many fami­lies in Cyprus and therefore accepted. Women's double burden as housewives and mothers on the one hand (very few men help a little with housework) and wage labourers on the other has even become a social ideal which was brought home to me in a rather awkward way on the occasion of the official celebration in Pafos of the International Women's Day 1996. After a couple of speeches stressing the pain of women as mothers, sisters and daughters of war victims and missing persons, the mayor of the town handed out medals to those women who are civil servants and have at least three children at the same time. The audience clapped.


Motivation for working


Most importantly, people are motivated to work for a house, an aspect I will come back to in the second last chapter of this empirical part. To build either one's own house or to build a house for one's daughter is the ultimate goal in life for which Greek-Cypriots invest everything. Caring for one's family - which implies paying for very costly engagements and weddings - and building a house are the two major reasons which motivate people to work as hard as they can. Except for sometimes very expensive clothes, particularly for children and teenagers at Christmas and Easter, people spend very little for personal needs. Travelling for example is a luxury a lot of adult people I have met have never enjoyed. Having work, and therefore being able to provide for one's family and to build a house, is tantamount to fulfilment. Let me quote one of my friends talking about the most important things in his life:


"First of all, we all want peace ... and security for our children and fami­lies. Secondly, for me personally and I believe for every Cypriot, the family, that it lives harmoniously, that the children grow up and that it flourishes. Then, that there are jobs so that people can work, because if there is work, a people can live better and more comfortably, without difficulties and problems. Then, a people lives in prosperity and can be sure not to get any problems. If people have no work though, there will inevitably be problems, the families will start to argue, the villagers, too, one with the other, and different problems will arise. If people have no work, how could they build houses? This requires people to have work and thus prosperity."


The significance of working relationships


In Cyprus, working means much more than turning up in the morning and lea­ving eight hours later. Working means establishing social relationships which extend to one's private life. First of all, a lot of close friendships are made at the work-place. Colleagues go out and celebrate religious feasts together, they invite each other to engagement and wedding parties. For example, at the engagement party of a young busdriver who had been working with a company only for a couple of months - but he has an uncle in there -, most of his new colleagues with their families and even the director of the company turned up. It is socially unacceptable not to do so.

Of course, the importance of work also has to do with patron-client relations on which a significant part of social relations and duties are based in Cyprus. But this is not the place to discuss this in detail. For the purpose of showing the signifi­cance of working relations, it is sufficient to note that the impact of patron-client relations in Mediterranean societies including Cyprus is well documen­ted[66].

In Cyprus, work is intimately linked to the family, including ritual kin. If some­one looks for a job, that person would first of all think about where she or he has family members working. Similarly, if a company looks for a new employee, fa­mily members of already employed people are considered first. Only if there is nobody suitable for a job, 'neutral' persons are taken into consideration. The daughter of a friend of mine for example used to work in a hotel as a waitress where she had no relatives or friends. She had to work very long hours and most of all impossible shifts. At Carneval, the whole family was to go to the town of Lemesos (Limassol) where the biggest carneval parade takes place every year and where my friends have future relatives-in-law. When, to my surprise, their daughter did not come along with us, my friend told me that unexpectedly, she had to work both evening and night shift so that it was impossible for her to come as well. He explained: 'She doesn't have anybody in there'. By this he meant that she has no relatives or friends at her work-place who could protect her against such kinds of working conditions. The situation went on like this and got even worse and when at Easter the same happened again, she quitted. Herself and her parents felt that she was being exploited and treated unfairly because she was alone in there. In a place like Cyprus where there are a lot of jobs which have to be done on Sundays as well as on public holidays due to the islands depen­dency on tourism and where normally there are no fixed rules at to how many weekends or public holidays each employee has to work, it is more often than not the case that those people in good positions - and that means not being the only one of your family working in a place - have Christmas and Easter days off for example. Not surprisingly, it is attractive to work where one is not alone.

Let me give an example of network structures based on private relationships within a company which I believe is not untypical if perhaps a little extreme, though I do not know this for sure. It is the bus company I have already men­tioned a couple of times in which I have gained an insight. In total, twenty-eight persons worked there as drivers or in offices at the time I did research in Cyprus, out of which only twelve are not related to anyone else in the company. The remaining sixteen are related to at least one other person in the following ways.


                   1+2                        3+4                        5+6                        7+8

                   father, son                   brothers                   cousins                 father, son



                                                   9                                                             10



  11                      12   13                    14                           15+16

                         nephew     niece                                                    father, son

                         of 9                                  of 9


                                (          = blood relatives, - - - = affinal relatives)


When people introduce someone else, they quite often add what kind of job that person has: 'This is such and such, she/he works with such and such a company'. This is indicative, I believe, of the importance of work in Cyprus. As I mentioned in the first chapter, my already existing working relation with more than one family helped me a great deal when I came to Cyprus to do research, because working together implies taking responsibility for one another, it implies having a social relationship. I was often introduced like this: 'This is Eva from Switzer­land, she works with us/she works with the company my son works with, she is our friend. At present, she is doing some research in Cyprus.'

Loizos (1975a) analyzing the ambiguous benefits of modern politics in a Cypriot village in the 1970s comes to the conclusion that village solidarity - and that im­plies working relations based on kin- and friendship - and the "fruits of personal labour" are what villagers trust and rely on (1975a: 23).


2. Constructing group-consciousness: The notion of work


As with the other notions I have discussed so far, the notion of work and wor­king relations is employed by Greek-Cypriots in the process of reasoning about both Turkish-Cypriots and Turks. The notion of work with all its connotations is primarily invoked in order to include Turkish-Cypriots, to a lesser extent, it is also used to exclude Turks.


Inclusion of Turkish-Cypriots


Working relationships

That Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots used to work together in agriculture and else­where was mentioned by many people first of all when I inquired about their re­lationship to Turkish-Cypriots. Working together on the fields, watering and har­vesting together, herding animals and making the Cypriot Chalumi cheese together, as well as trading relationships between Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots such as that between a butcher and a cattle dealer were invoked as examples of good cooperation. One elderly man even remembered that one of his father's friends used to work and live together with a Turkish-Cypriot, a Muslim, in an Orthodox convent One man recalled his childhood in the following way:


" In summertime I had to work on the fields in order to pay for the school, because we were a poor family. ... The first summer I worked in a Turkish-Cypriot village. We were about five to six Greek-Cypriots working there and we also stayed there at night. In the evenings, we sat together with the Turkish-Cypriots, we ate and drank, in the kafenion, in the Turkish ... there wasn't any problem at all. In the second year I worked in another village, there too, most of the people were Turkish-Cypriots and in the third summer I went there again. "


Turkish-Cypriots worked on the plantations of richer Greek-Cypriots or vice versa or else, Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot people, mostly women, worked for joint cooperatives picking citrus fruit, or they had share cropping arrangments with one another, as the following accounts show.


"We got on well together, at work, I did not work myself yet because I was still young, but others such as my mother, they picked oranges on the fields, there were Turkish-Cypriot women, too, and they got on well. In the morning, they went to work together, did different kinds of work in the fields, planted potatoes, carots, and they went together and worked. They finished work together and went home together."


"We had fields in the neighbouring Turkish-Cypriot village, and our father always took us with him .... we were together with them (the Turkish-Cypriots) all the time ... many times, my father cultivated fields which belonged to a Turkish-Cypriot and then they shared the harvest 50% - 50%, it was like a cooperative, they shared the harvest."


"I remember that in our village the Turkish-Cypriots and the Greek-Cypriots used to water their fields together and to help each other with their work in the fields. In the morning at four o'clock, Osman used to knock at our door and then they went together and helped each other."


"We got on very well with the Turkish-Cypriots, we were no different, we went to the spring together, before there was water inside the houses, we went to the spring to fetch water, we went together to herd our animals. " 


Other people emphasized that Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots used to work toge­ther in offices or as civil servants.


"We used to work together in the countryside and in the towns. The town hall was mixed. The mayor was always a Greek-Cypriot because they were the majority, but the civil servants were Turkish-Cypriots as well as Greek-Cypriots. There was only one townhall. And the offices were mixed, too, they worked together. When a Turkish-Cypriot was employed he was welcomed by his Greek-Cypriot colleagues and they sat at the same table. ... It would be beautiful if we were to work together again."


The woman who gave me this account is an elderly Turkish-Cypriot lady who has been living in Pafos all of her life.


She was born in 1920. She is the wife of the late Turkish-Cypriot personal advisor of the late President Makarios, Dr. Ihsan Ali, a man highly respected by Greek-Cypriots both for his personal qualities and medical skills. Due to her fa­mily's critical attitude towards the Turkish-Cypriot leadership, they have had Greek-Cypriot body and house guards ever since the 1960s which is why they could not be forced to leave for the North as most other Turkish-Cypriots who used to live in the Pafos area have been. In 1974, they helped a number of Turkish-Cypriots to flee abroad. Her family has always been in favour - and very outspoken at that - of the Turkish-Greek-Cypriot friendship. She is now an old lady bound to her house and at times to her bed because of health problems. Her house is full of precious valuables from all over the world. She feels happy with living in an Greek-Cypriot environment, even though she is quite lonely. But she is sad about how Cyprus has changed from a place of Turkish-Greek friendship to one of hostility and ignorance. She hopes that one day, the Cypriot people will consider themselves first of all Cypriots rather than Turks and Greeks.


Joint unions[67]

Two politically left men also stressed the fact that Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots used to be organized in joint unions.


"From an early age on, we worked together with the Turkish-Cypriots from other villages, as friends. We made the anti-colonial strike (1948[68]) together. 2000 Turkish-Cypriots were in the PEO (the union of the Com­munist Party AKEL), the vice-president was a Turkish-Cypriot!"


This man has been a convinced communist and an active member of the Communist Party for all of his life. He is now 67 years old and still as staunch in his belief in the communist cause as ever before. When I went for a brief visit to the occupied North, he entrusted me with conveying his warmest greetings to his Turkish-Cypriot brothers and sisters and to tell them to keep fighting for the Greek-Turkish friendship. He is a refugee. As much as he is a charming 'commu­nist of the old guard', one might say, he is a man dedicated to his family. Every other Sunday, all of his five children with their own families gather at his house (together with his wife he now lives in a fairly simple former Turkish-Cypriot house) for one of his famous 'suvlas' (braised lamb, pork or chicken). Maintain­ing close family ties is very important to him.


The other man who mentioned joint unions remembers the Turkish-Cypriots as 'arkadash':


"There were many Turkish-Cypriots who were organized in the Greek-Cypriot unions as well. They were 'arkadash', that's how they were called, 'arkadash' means 'brother' in Turkish, fellow worker, friend, and I felt that they were indeed 'arkadash'."


Impact of working relations

The fact that working together not only implies economic but also personal and emotional bonds - be they between equals or between employer and employee -, is nicely illustrated in the following statement.


"One woman who used to work on my orange plantations in 1974 married off her daughter, and she invited me to come to the wedding. Really, I had to go, because you see, if someone works with you and you have a rela­tionship with them and they invite you to a wedding and you do not go, then this means that ... that  socially, you are not okay."


As I have shown, working relations are much more than just that in Cyprus. They are, next to the family, what one really relies on. I would like to add a last statement by a woman from a formerly mixed village which shows the emotio­nal bonds established through working together, in this case in the fields as co-villagers.


"There was a Turkish-Cypriot woman, and I always took the thorns out of her hands, you know, when you work on the fields you get thorns into your hands, and she always wanted me to do this because she said that I did it so well. And the day before they had to leave (in 1974), she came to me and asked me to take out the thorns in her hands for a last time: 'Who will take them out now for me when I'll be there (in the North)?'"



Exclusion of Turks


'The Turks do not work'

Only one man born in 1959 claimed that the Turkish-Cypriots did not know how to work, that all their properties went to rack due to neglect. This he said during the same conversation in which he also recalled his parents working together with Turkish-Cypriots. He is an exception in that, despite belonging to the second age group (people whose memory does not reach further back than to the 1960s), he holds a view typical of some people of the third age group (with no personal memories of  bicommunal relations whatsoever). His example not only illu­strates how contradictory different statements by one and the same person can be, it also supports my point in so far as it shows that even though this fairly young person distinguishes between Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots, he does so invoking the Greek-Cypriot notion of work which other, older  people employ to demon­strate exactly the opposite, namely that the Turkish-Cypriots worked hard just like themselves and that they had good relationships with them. Older people came up with the same argument, but they brought it forward in order to exclude the Turks from the mainland asserting that they are lazy and do not know how to work.

Since working is conceptually linked to providing for one's family, to building houses and to prosperity, in short, to being a righteous person leading a life plea­sing to God, it is clear that by denying the Turks the quality of working hard and honestly and thus the ability to prosper, they cannot but be seen as outsiders who do not share the Greek-Cypriot notion of work with all its implications.


!Repressive measures

Since working together is tantamout to having and enjoying good relations one can trust in, those who do not want to collaborate - i.e. the Turkish and the Turkish-Cypriot leadership - disqualify themselves, from the Greek-Cypriot point of view, because they do not support the value of working together so important to Greek-Cypriots. Hence, they must be outsiders. Not only do they discourage cooperation between Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots, they also employ repressive measures againgst dissident Turkish-Cypriots.


"His father had a conflict with the Turks, because he wanted to work with us, and he was seen as a traitor by the Turks. And they put him into jail."


At the same time, repressive measures directed against Turkish-Cypriots aiming at cooperation with Greek-Cypriots, are evidence of the significance of working relations in establishing social bonds. Because if the Turkish leaders spare no effort to stop working relations between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots, they surely must be aware of the social potential these relations carry. This, ironically, makes them, in an indirect way, to insiders sharing the notion of work with the Greek-Cypriots.




O Cau-3981san htan filos mou                        Hasan was a friend of mine

mia cronia speirame ta cwrafia mazi.                        one year we sowed the fields together.

H sodeia htane megalh,                        The h!arvest was big,

perase o kairos cwris daneika.                        time passed without debts.

O Casan htan eutucismenos,                        Hasan was happy,

etrebe ta ceria caru-3985oumenos.                        he rubbed his hands cheerfully.

O agas, den tou fage to moscari!                        The agas did not eat his cattle!             

Persi gia ligo stari ...                        Last year, for a little bit of wheat ...

tou phu-3982re thn gelada.                        he took his cow.

- Twra ... o agas o patriwths!                        - Now ... the agas the patriot!

Kathgorei to filo mou Casan,                        accuses my friend Hasan,

g￙91i anteqnikh sunergasia.                        of antiethnic co-operation.


(Artemhs Antwniou)                        (Artemis Antoniou 1974; my translation)


What is expressed with this poem is that those who do not want cooperation are motivated by their own self-interest.


3. Summary


To summarize, working relationships occupy a central position in Cypriot society and are intimately linked to social relationships based on family and friendship.

The notion of work with all its implications it has in Cyprus is invoked by Greek-Cypriots when mentally constructing groups of in - and outsiders, when creating group-consciousness. It is employed both to include the Turkish-Cypriots and to exclude the Turks.



[ content | chapter 3 ]

V  The notion of Food


As with all other aspects I discuss, the notion of food is salient in the Greek-Cypriots' way of reasoning about the Turkish-Cypriots. In contrast to the other notions though, the notion of food is only invoked to include the Turkish-Cypriots, but not to exclude Turks from mainland Turkey. Before turning to examples given by my informants, I will provide the basis on which they have to be understood by discussing the social implications of sharing food in Greek-Cypriot culture. 


1. The significance of food within Greek-Cypriot society


Food in Cyprus as in many other cultures carries symbolic meaning both in everyday life and in rituals particularly those related to death. As a part of funeral and memorial rituals, food is a female sphere of responsibility and strongly asso­ciated with women (cf. Danforth 1982: 42-47/99-109 and Du Boulay 1991: 67-69). However, the gender aspect of food is not central in Cyprus in everyday life[69]. Dubisch's interpretation of the symbolism of food in Greece applies to Cyprus as well:


in "It would be a mistake, however, to view the symbolism of food only in terms of gender roles. Food is part of a general idiom in which social relationships are expressed. It symboli­zes bonds within the family and between the family and the outside world." (1986b: 207).

The symbolic meaning of food in everyday life


Food is very significant in Greek-Cypriot everyday life. It is much more than just calories and nutrition. Eating and drinking together means establishing and soli­difying  social relationships and bonds[70]. Everyone exchanges food with everyone else in Cyprus. Very rarely do people refuse to either eat or, if they really cannot manage to eat anything, to take some food home with them. It is utterly unpolite and socially unsound to do so. Whenever people meet, be they family, friends, acquaintances or neighbours they offer each other food. Both offering and accep­ting food are socially defined and imperative orders.  Exchanging food is rather like exchanging gifts in the sense Mauss described it, insofar as both offering and accepting food are two likewise important components of establishing social rela­tionships (cf. Mauss 1990: 36-39).

In general, material modesty is not a virtue for Greek-Cypriots, because it is a virtue to give, particularly to one's family but also to strangers. It is good to have a lot, because only then one can give.

When I moved into my flat in Pafos, my landlady who owns a  small hairdres­sing saloon in the same building came up with some makaronia the very first day, and every time I passed by her saloon, I had to eat a little bit of something, be it a sweet or at least a couple of bites from her pastry she had bought for lunch. Whenever I went to someone's place I returned loaden with food. People insis­ted on giving me something edible to take home with me. They gave me cheese, lemons and oranges, sweets, spirit (meant to be used as a remedy against colds) and sometimes cooked food. I remember Sundays going along with friends on visits to different members of their family, when I ate cooked food three times, at lunch at the first place, in the afternoon at the next and later on in the evening again. We could not but accept because we actually were at three different places and it is impossible to pay someone a visit without eating at least something small. Offering food is not just a sign of hospitality as it is popularly interpreted, its deeper sense is to establish, to maintain and to confirm social relationships between those exchanging food.

One evening, I was going to visit a married couple; he is Greek-Cypriot, she is foreign originally although she has lived in Cyprus for over twenty years now. Before I went there I quickly passed by a friend's place to say hello. Assuming that I was going to get food later on, I only had some fruit at my friend's house. As it turned out though, I was not offered any food later on, so that I went home hungry. When I met my friend whose house I had passed be­fore going to visit these people the other day, he asked me how it had been there the night before. When I told him that I had not been offered any food after all, he got very indig­nant bursting out: 'There you see that she is a foreigner, even after so many years of having been here. A Cypriot woman would never do that, having you at her place in the evening without offering you any food.' To him, this was unthinkable and not offering me any food was a sign of her being an outsider. 

On another occasion, I went to the house of friends of mine together with people that I wanted to introduce to my friends. These were people my friends respect very much but did not yet know personally at the time. So, they felt honoured by our visit. My friends were in the middle of making cheese, so that we felt a little awkward and first insisted that we did not want anything to eat. But since it was not too long before lunchtime, that was out of the question. They took us down from the farm where they had been busy making cheese to their house nearby, to the 'good table'. Entering the house, my friend explained: 'If you sit down some­where and have even just a little bit of cheese and tomato you will feel at home.' So, we gave up resisting and all had a solid meal together although at least the visitors I had brought were not hungry at all, because they had had a good breakfast shortly before.


!arDubisch (1986b), analyzing social life in the Cycladic islands, shows the conceptual link between food and social order in general, mediated by women. Food is linked to a whole network of meaning, involving the concept of 'inside versus outside', of the house and the body, of religion and pollution, of the family and of gender roles. All of these aspects are central to Greek-Cypriot culture as well and intimately linked to each other[71]. Through food, social order and boundaries are established and maintained[72].



Ritual foods


Not only is food significant in everyday life, but there are special kinds of foods which carry religious meaning. All important celebrations in Cyprus are either related to the family or to religion establishing a bond between these two notions. This bond is partly symbolized by food.

At weddings, there is a special kind of dish called resi which consists of wheat and meat[73]. Every guest also gets a sweet on their arrival to an engagement or a wedding party as they file along to congratulate the young couple. At memorials and on patron saint celebrations, women take kolliva, a ritual food consisting of boiled wheat, pomegranate pips, almonds, sesame and raisins to church. Dead persons are commemorated on the third, the ninth and the fortieth day after their death, then after three, six and nine months and then annually. The women write the names of their deceased family members on a piece of paper which the priest reads out thus blessing the dead. At the end of the church ser­vice,  the kolliva which has also been blessed by the priest is offered to everyone present. In this way, all the families represented by someone present  share in the memorial by that person eating a spoonful of kolliva.  Giving and receiving kolliva! is also part of collective memorials, called psychosavvata  which are very similar to individual memorial services. There are five psychosavvata  during the Orthodox year, four of them during the Easter period (cf. Danforth 1982: 56).

Forty days before Christmas and Easter and fifteen days prior to the Assumption of Mary, food and the lack of it respectively is rendered a particularly strong signi­ficance. The Orthodox Lent begins on Monday six weeks prior to the Holy Easter Week itself. From then on until Easter Eve after midnight, Orthodox Christians are not supposed to eat any animal products at all, but only few people, mostly older women, follow this rule strictly these days. However, most people, young and old, fast during the Holy Week. If they do not keep the fast for at least the last few days before Easter, people do not feel comfortable accepting the Holy Com­munion which may happen anytime between Thursday and Saturday morning of the Easter week. The day before one goes to take the Holy Communion, one is not supposed to eat oil either. The Holy Communion on Thursday is considered the most holy one following the Last Supper. It cleanses the faithful Orthodox Christian for an entire year. But in order for it to be taken properly, one has to prepare oneself physically and spiritually, one has to cleanse one's body, soul and mind. This happens through fasting and attending church services on the one hand, and sexual abstinence and the renunciation of other kinds of worldly pleasures on the other. Only with the proper kind of personal prepa­ration is one worthy of taking it. Friends of mine for example who had had a serious argu­ment with each other during the Holy Week did not go to take the Holy Communion because they felt that after having argued they were not spiritually clean enough to do so. In general, an Orthodox Christian is supposed to fast three days before taking the Communion at any time during the year. After the an­nouncement of Christ's resurrection on Easter Eve at midnight, each family goes home to share the traditional Easter ricesoup and some meat for the first time after the Lent. On Easter Sunday, people celebrate by means of eating lots and lots of roasted lamb. During times of religiously motiva­ted fasts, food which nor­mally symbolizes and establishes social relationships is temporarily rendered unclean and thus unfit for consumption. However, it is through ritual foods, the Holy Communion, that daily food is blessed and rendered clean again[74].


2. Constructing group-consciousness: The notion of food


Inclusion of Turkish-Cypriots


Eating and drinking together

'We ate and drank together' is one of the endlessly repeated phrases chosen to exemplify the good relations between all Cypriots. It often comes along in combi­nation with the other notions I have already discussed. ar "We used to work together, we got on very well, we ate and enjoyed ourselves together, they came to our weddings and feasts, everything."


"They were like brothers and sisters. Or they had Turkish-Cypriots who worked in their houses and they were very good to them, and they worked and they ate together, they invited each other, were friends."


Having in mind the social significance of food in Greek-Cypriot culture, it is clear that the sharing of food symbolizes relationships of friendship and trust.

Let me also quote an amusing anecdote which a man who used to have Turkish-Cypriot workers told me:


"You know, the religion forbids the Muslims to eat pork. There was a Turkish-Cypriot who used to work for me as a driver and he just loved to eat pork ('he used to eat it with the hair'). And I said to him: 'Are you eating pork again?' He answered: 'Mister H., I do not eat the pork, but its fat.'"


The kafenion

As the literature on Greece and Cyprus or even a brief visit to these countries un­doubtedly makes obvious, the kafenion occupies a central place for at least the men of these societies. As with other food related encounters, sitting together in the kafenion means much more than just drinking coffee. It is a space for social interaction in which friendship and cooperation play an important part. An el­derly man who came as a refugee to a then still mixed village (T.) in the south (in some places the Turkish-Cypriots only left in 1975) describes his experience on his arrival like this:


"In September 1974, I came to T. ...  I didn't make any difference bet­ween the Turkish-Cypriot and the Greek-Cypriot kafenion, one eve­ning I went to the Greek, the next to the Turkish. In the Turkish-Cypriot kafenion I never payed one single coffee! Never! As soon as I came into the door: 'Welcome Mister H., a coffee for Mister H.'. I also went to the Greek-Cypriot kafenion of the village, to establish rela­tions, you know, going to the kafenion is establishing relations, I went to the Greek-Cypriot kafenion, and now I will compare the Greek-Cypriots with the Turkish-Cypriots in T. for you, I came into the kafe­nion and nobody even said 'good evening', in the Greek-Cypriot one! And in the Turkish-Cypriot one I never paid a single coffee."

!r In the kafenion as elsewhere, offering food is tantamount to offering a social rela­tionship.


Food as social bond

The most important aspect of food is its potential to bind people socially. The following statements illustrate this. The first one I have already partially quoted in the section about work.


"One woman who used to work on my orange plantations in 1974 married off her daughter, and she invited me to come to the wedding. ... So, I went, and they brought us food, on my right and on my left were Turkish-Cypriots, and someone brought me a roasted chicken on a plate, a whole chicken! And he said: 'This is for the master.' He brought it especially for me. You know extra ... he wanted to ... ,he somehow felt obliged to bring me something special. And I said: 'Thank you very much, but I cannot possibly eat a whole chicken all by myself, put it in the middle of the table.' You know, he wanted to ex­press his ... esteem for me."


The man who told me how a Turkish-Cypriot risked his life in order to bring him across a raging torrent (I stated this example in the introduction to this em­pirical part) continues his account like this:


" ... after that, we always brought him something when we passed his village on our way from school, and every time he loaded us with oranges and lemons, and we were friends. They used to call us to come into the kafenion and they gave us tea, and we sat in the kafenion toge­ther, they never took any money. "


An elderly Turkish-Cypriot woman recalls former times:


"When there was a religious feast, we used to exchange gifts. The Turkish-Cypriots made sweets and they gave the Greek-Cypriots, too. The old people remember this. They remember how we used to ex­change food and religious/festive foods."


That offering food symbolizes social relationships and care is obvious in the following accounts as well in which the notions of the family and of food are in­voked to characterize the relationships between Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots.


"... the Turkish-Cypriot women used to come to my mother and they asked whether they could cut some things ...  they didn't have toma­toes, pepper and cucumber and we said: 'Take as much as you like' so that they could eat. We got on very well. ... And there was one Turkish-Cypriot woman for whom I was like a daughter. She was called Masief. She used to buy ice-cream when the ice-man came (this was in the 1950s) and she held it in her hand all the way and she brought it to me, she treated me like a daughter."


"She was like my mother, she practically brought me up. When my mother went to work and I was alone at home, she cooked for me and gave me food. I sat together with her daughter and she gave us rice and we ate."


3. Summary


To summarize, the notion of food is yet another aspect by which Greek-Cypriots define Turkish-Cypriots as insiders.

Food in everyday life as well as ritual food carries symbolic meaning for Greek-Cypriots and sharing and exchanging food implies establishing and solidifying social relationships.



[ content | chapter 3 ]

VI  The notion of the house


One of the most important notions in Cyprus is that of the house. It is crucial to any understanding of the Cypriot culture. In the process of constructing group-consciousness, the notion of the house plays a central part. But in order to fully grasp the meaning and the significance of statements about the house, one must first understand what it means to Greek-Cypriots.




1. The house in Cyprus


The Cypriot house


The hous!e, the spiti, is a materialization of the values of Greek-Cypriot culture. It embodies and symbolizes all crucial notions: the family, the locality, religion, work, food and the concept of 'inside versus outside'. This is also true for the notion of the family which is not only intimately linked but in many ways syno­nymous with the house. Just how much the house means in Cyprus can hardly be overemphasized. It means virtually everything. Having one's own house is one of the first, if not the first priority in life. Renting is a very unsatisfactory option which to Greek-Cypriots is acceptable only temporarily, for the house is "a symbol of permanence" (Du Boulay 1991: 62).

Before turning to the symbolic meaning of the Greek-Cypriot house, let me briefly describe the most important spaces within it: the saloni and the kitchen. First of all, Greek-Cypriot houses are spacious. There is a lot of mostly 'unused' space. In most houses there are two saloni, a 'good' one and one for daily use. The good one remains untouched except for special occasions such as family par­ties or religious feasts. Photographs of the members of the family living in the house and of other relatives including ritual kin are displayed at prominent pla­ces in both the good and the everyday saloni[75] (where the TV is on practically all the time). Handmade gobelins depicting romantic West European motives hang on the walls and the tables are decorated with Cypriot laces[76]. Whenever there are visitors in the house, one sits in the saloni, normally the everyday one, drin­king coffee and eating homemade sweets or other sorts of snacks. Everyday fami­ly life takes place here as well, but social interaction amongst the members of the nuclear family concentrates in the kitchen. There, a picture of the Last Supper hangs above the table where the family shares its meals[77]. In some new houses, there are two kitchens, a 'good' fancy one which is hardly ever used and a less expensive one for daily use.


The meaning of the house in Greek-Cypriot culture


The central meaning of the house for Greek-Cypriots was brought home to me during one of my first visits to Cyprus guiding a party of tourists. On our way to a monastery near Pafos we were to pass our busdriver's newly built house. When he suggested stopping for a drink there I first refused his offer on the grounds of our limited time. As soon as I had said that I would prefer going straight to the monastery, I realized that I had said something wrong, because I could very clear­ly sense that he felt insulted and even hurt although he accepted my decision. As we actually came to his village, he asked again whether I would like to take the group to his house. Having had a little time to think about my mistake, I accepted with the effect that his whole expression changed immediately. Showing his house to the world meant quite obviously a great deal to him. Only later did I understand why. Here is an impressionistic portrait of him.


His house means everything to him. Not bein!g a refugee, he was able to finish a house at the age of 41 for himself and his older daughter who is going to live on the upper floor once she will be married,. This house is his whole pride and the fulfilment of his dream. He and his wife have put all their effort and money into it. Up to this year, they have never travelled anywhere together. He strongly be­lieves in the ideal of an upright and proper kind of lifestyle which to him means helping one's fellow human beings, acting properly according to one's religion, working hard and most of all caring for one's family, which involves providing one's daughter with a dowry house. Once all of his three children will be happily married, he will have achieved the goal of his life. He is, no doubt, the patriach of the family, and that is, in his view, the proper way things should be. He is a very kind and warm-hearted person.


And this is what he told me imagining a possible loss of his house:


"For sure, this would be my greatest grief, the biggest psychological problem I had to face. Because it took me and my wife a whole lifetime to build this house for our daughter, so much struggling, so many prob­lems, so many difficulties until we arrived were we are today. You can­not exchange it with anything else, because it means an entire life, you work, year after year and you give everything to build a house for your child, as a father. From the moment on that someone would come and say: 'This house is not yours, it is mine, you can go to another house', even if this other house were better than mine, but for me, it means everything. The house is the priority of our life. Because we get it from our parents, we keep it, it is our most treasured possession. Because this way we show our parents our love and esteem for them. It is the pre­sent that our parents have made us, that is why we should never give it away. I imagine, this house which I now have given to my daughter, for which I have given my whole life, if she were to sell it tomorrow... I imagine my pain, there would be two kinds of pain for me: first, that she has sold the house I have given her, and then, that I would see it in foreign hands, every day. That's why we think it right to ... mainly be­cause our parents have given it to us, we want to keep it. That's why you can see this eagerness, that's why the Cypriots work so hard, so that they can build a house, if I had not worked properly all my life so that I can protect my family properly, I could not have built this house for my daughter. "


The above statement makes clear how much the notion of the house is wound up with the notion of work, with the concept of 'inside and outside' (foreign) and most of all, with the notion of the family. Typically, the Greek word for family, ikojenia , literally translates as 'house lineage' (Iossifides 1991: 140) or "the people who originate from the same house" (Du Boulay 1986: 141). The house is much more than just accomodation for Greek-Cypriots. It is the materialized symbol of the success of a family. Building a house means the fulfilment of a central and highly valued goal in life.

The daughter referred to in the above statement is a little over twenty years old now which means it is time to find a husband for her. Since she has not become friends with a possible partner on her own yet, her parents have introduced her to a number of young men (proxenia). One of them seemed suitable both to the daughter and her parents and therefore engagement arrangements were made. After a little while during which the daughter and her future husband got to know each other better, it turned out that he did not want to live in her village, i.e. in her house she has been given by her parents. This was completely un­acceptable and the engagement was immediatly broken off.





Aspects of the family, of gender and locality


In Cyprus and Greece, houses are strongly associated with women[78].

In Cyprus, daughters get a house as part of their dowry and therefore it belongs to them[79]. Whoever can, will give their daughter a house, and a lot of people can, although this is much harder for refugees than for non-refugees of course. After the death of one or both of their parents, daughters and sons inherit, if available, equal amounts of land (cf. Sant Cassia 1982: 645). Because the house is perceived to be passed on from mother to daughter and is thus primarily associated with women[80], women often told me that they got their house from their mother. Similarly, people often say that their mother lives next door, meaning their parents. A house is not only passed on from woman to woman, it is also the cen­ter of a matrifocal unit[81]. One daughter, if there are more than one, will inherit the parental house, the other daughters will get other houses or flats on an upper floor or nearby referred to as spiti as well. This means that sisters will keep on living close to each other after marrying. Their husbands will move in with them. This uxorilocal model[1]!otnote [1]Sant Cassia (1982: 654) notes this mode of residence for the 1920s as well as for the 1980s. is a theoretical one which cannot always be put into practice. Whenever possible though it is. But due to mainly economic con­straints - imagine a farmer with four daughters - the ideal of giving one's daugh­ter a house or a flat is not always feasible. One of the greatest grieves for many re­fugees is the fact that they will not be able to give their daughters a spiti. Some of my refugee friends have helped their daughters to build houses while staying in an old Turkish-Cypriot house themselves. The costs involved in building a
house (even if the land does not have to be bought - people may get land from their parents and the refugees are given land by the government - the costs eat up the salary of ten years of a person with an average monthly wage of 400 Cypriot Pounds) have caused some families to seek alternative solutions. Providing a daughter with higher education is seen as an acceptable alternative for a house, because education is also a long-term investment into the future of one's daugh­ter and of the whole family. A poor or averagely wealthy family with more than one daughter is likely to build a house for one of them, normally the oldest, and to grant the others some sort of higher education, if possible. Some young women, however, get both; they are sent to study abroad (to Greece, England or America) plus they are given, on their return, a house. Even though giving a house to their daughter is more important to parents than possessing one them­selves, the economic demands involved in providing one's daughter with a house have caused some people to change their idea about dowry houses. Though they will try to support their children as much as they possibly can, some Greek-Cypriots (men and women) no longer think it their duty to provide them with a finished house. Parents and daughters alike have expressed such a view. Not surprisingly, this alternative opinion to traditional values causes friction within families, either between the two parents holding different views or bet­ween parents and daughters. I know of one case for example, where a daughter has very clearly stated that she does not wish to get a finished house from her parents, but that she prefers to chose the exact locality of it, its style and size her­self. Nevertheless, her parents are building a home for her on the upper floor of their own house. However, for this young woman, too, it is absolutely clear that she wants to build a house in the neighbourhood of her mother, after having come back from studying in the USA which she is presently doing. Long-term renting is out of question for her, too.

In general, the dowry house has remained the ideal for most Greek-Cypriots, despite the economic difficulties involved which surely are not a novelty for the poorer strata of the Greek-Cypriot society.

If a daughter's house is not yet finished when she gets married, the young couple will live in the bride's parental house until her own is ready. Sometimes this si­tuation goes on for a year or more, even if the first child has already been born. Engaged people as well - and sometimes very young people get engaged after having been involved with each other for a short time only -, live together at the woman's parental house until they get married[82].


Stamatakis (in his unpublished Ph.D. thesis, 1994) misses the crucial gender aspect of houses in his discussion of the "Women's Walks across the Green Line" (p. 266-309), a ritual of protest against the Turkish occupation of the north of Cyprus, during which women tried to cross the border in order to walk home ('to our houses', spiti mas). It is not by accident that it was women walking home be­cause it is them who are primarily associated with houses. Thus this ritual pro­test gained extra weight. The protest was culturally meaningful.


Though the house in both Greece[83] and Cyprus is very strongly associated with women, men are also "intrinsically connected to the house" (Dubisch 1986a: 19-20) through their obligation to provide for the family. Du Boulay, discussing power relations within Greek marriages, notes that


"... man's character is tempered by an unremitting and often tyrannous service to the house. Food, shelter, and clothing, not to mention dowries for the daughters and inheritances for the sons, neither are nor were won easily from a harsh and rocky land, and when it is said that the man is the head of the house, it means that he bears, quite literally, with only his two hands to help him, the responsibility for the lives of all within it." (1986: 154)


The central significance of the house in a variety of cultures very different from that of Cyprus is documented in Carsten & Hugh-Jones' collection "About the house" (1995), bringing together concepts of the house from societies in Southeast Asia (including Madagascar, see also Bloch 1993) and South America. Taking a "sympathetic but critical look at Lévi-Strauss's ideas of the house" (p. 1), Carsten & Hugh-Jones emphasize (unlike Lévi-Strauss, cf. p. 37; for further bibilographi­cal references on the anthropology of the house, see Carsten & Hugh-Jones 1995) the dynamic qualities of the house and its processual character which is paral­leled by the process of its inhabitants' lives.


"... architectural processes are made to coincide, in various ways, with important events and processes in the lives of their occupants and are thought of in terms of them. ... We have shown the value of seeing houses together with the people who inhabit them as mutually impli­cated in the process of living." (Carsten & Hugh Jones 1995: 39, 45)


This observation is true for Cyprus, as well, where the building of a house goes hand in hand with the growing of a family, the growing up of a daughter for whom the house is being built. Building a house often takes years in Cyprus. Construction may start when a girl is only ten years old for example, because the house is not expected to be ready until the daughter's wedding.


"Crucially, we would consider architectural features of hou­ses as an aspect of their importance as social units in both life and thought" (Carsten & Hugh Jones 1995: 20).


The building of the house thus parallels a married couple's efforts to equip their daughter for life. The purpose of and the most important goal in life, the well-being of one's children, is at least partially fulfilled when she can be given a house thus smoothing the way for her and the whole family's future. Only with the refugees the growth of the family cannot be paralleled by the growth of the house, because they have to make up time the fruits of which have been stolen from them by the invasion of 1974.


Religious aspects of the house[84]


In Cyprus, most women work as! wage labourers as well as their husbands and thus share with them the responsibility of providing materially for the nuclear family and the household. Caring for the spiritual life of the family, however, for alive and dead members alike, is the responsibility of women only.

"... the woman conserves and nourishes the life within it, and without the woman not only does the physical order of the house fall apart, but the spiritual order also." (Du Boulay 1986: 163)


Besides icons depicting holy scenes arranged in a kind of private household shrine, the ikonostasi sometimes found in Cypriot houses - but not as many times as seems to be the case in Greece[85] -, the house has yet another, quite diffe­rent religious aspect. It is conceptually linked with purity, symbolized by its clean­liness, and pollution respectively. One of my informants paralleled the cleanli­ness of the house with the purity of the body, the spirit and the soul in the following way. She was explaining to me why fasting during Easter time is im­portant.


"Just as you clean your house, you clean your body of particular foods and of your husband (sexual abstinence) and your spirit through atten­ding religious ceremonies. You should take the Holy Communion only if you are clean. Would you feel comfortable if you were dressed nicely but your house was not clean? No, you wouldn't."



!d What is particularly interesting is the way she parallels the house with both the body and the spirit as opposed to clothes. House, body and spirit are all inner spaces which must be kept clean and free of pollution. Clothes and taking the Holy Communion on the other hand are external mirrors of inner purity. 

"The house and the body are intimately linked" (Carsten & Hugh Jones 1995: 2), and thus the anthropology of architecture and the anthropology of the body. This linkage which holds true for Cyprus as well is nicely illustrated by the above statement.


Dubisch (1986b) analyzes exactly this parallel between the body and the house, both seen as inner space (I will come back to her thesis below.). Keeping pollution away from inner spaces is primarily a female task through which women secure social boundaries and order for the whole society.


"... what pollution beliefs reflect is not gender status so much as more general concepts of control and order. ... It is women's task ... to create and maintain the order that is the foundation of culture. ...  We see, then, that rather than viewing women simply as sources of pollution ... we need to examine their role as controllers of pollution, both their own and that of others, and thus as guardians of order." (Dubisch 1986b; 202-3)


The religious meaning of the house, and of much else, is summarized by Du Boulay like this:


"The house, however, is not only the basis of material and social existence for the villager, for ... it is an image of heaven on earth, re-creating within the human order the harmony of the divine archetype on which it is based. The preserva­tion of the life of the house, and of the family within it, is a creative act that is carried out not merely in response to the immediate material exigencies of the natural environment and the agricultural cycle, but also in response to the sacred world, according to which there are ordained periods of feast and periods of fast, times to rest and times to work, saints' days and penitential periods - an interlocking pattern of work and prayer and festival. The house, the pivot of these activities, is thus both sanctuary and cornucopia [a place for plentifulness; my addition], the point at which the beneficence of God and the fruits of the earth meet and are manifested within the material world. And in the values of hospitality to the stranger and the mourning rituals performed for the forefathers, the gift of life and of food is mediated to the communities of both the living and the dead." (1986: 143)


The concept of 'inside versus outside'


The house also embodies the widely documented dichotomy of 'inside versus outside' in Greek-Orthodox contexts, 'outside' meaning: cannot be trusted. The 'inside' on the other hand is the most sacred realm. The family - and particularly women - and the house have the strongest inside quality possible, but the di­chotomy between in- and outside runs through all important notions of Greek-Cypriot culture. Recall the statement I quoted in the section about religion in which one informant talks about the difference between 'inside and outside' of the house when it comes to defending oneself and giving the Muslims credit for respecting the integrity of the interior of the house (p. 81). That the quality of the house is an inner one for Greek-Cypriots is visible in the fact that people often do not finish off the outside of their house before moving in. A house is considered finished when its inside is done. Outside painting may be delayed for several months. It has no priority at all. Tourist often comment on how ugly Greek-Cypriot houses look from outside because normally a lot of thin steel bars protrude from the top of the flat roofs. Greek-Cypriot people are not bothered by this the least. For them, the quality of the house lies inside and is paralleled to the inner quality of the family both of which grow together (cf. Carsten & Hugh-Jones 1995). This is why in Cyprus the outside of a house is not relevant, it may be neglected until its inner quality has fully grown.


Cyprus itself, the topos, has an inner quality opposed to the foreign outside which only causes trouble. Spiti mu, literally 'my house', means my home and my homeland at the same time. The house/home/homeland is what outsiders can­not take from you, theoretically at least, which is an aspect a number of people stressed. Consider the following statement of a non-refugee:


"For Cypriots, the house means everything, it is a space you have to yourself, others cannot just kick you out. I think the Cypriots generally want something of their own. The house is our way of life, everything is put into it. So many foreign powers have passed Cyprus and they all took earth, land, that's why it has become so important to us to have our own property nobody can take from us. And many people are angry now be­cause our earth is sold to foreigners[86], because we feel a need to hold on to our earth, our land. ... The refugees cannot ... it is a drama for them, this moment old people die, and they die with the pain the refugees have, that they had to leave their houses, and if possible they want to be buried in their villages."


Related to the inner quality of the house is, finally, food and all social actions and encounters taking place inside the house. Through food, socially important va­lues of Greek-Cypriot culture, within and between families, are mediated in the house (cf. Dubisch 1986b).


I would like to end this part about the inner qualities of the house by pointing to a brilliant article by Dubisch (1993) entitled "'foreign chickens' and other out­siders: gender and community in Greece". Dubisch  scrutinizes the often unre­flected concept of 'honour and shame' (Peristiany 1965, see also the updated dis­cussion of this concept: Peristiany & Pitt-Rivers 1992[87] and Gilmore 1987) which is intimately linked to the integrity of the family, to its inner quality. Within this concept, women are understood as those to be controlled, primarily by means of control­ling their sexuality (see for example Du Boulay 1986, Roussou 1986). Dubisch (1986b, 1993), in contrast, sees women as those who actively control social boundaries relevant to the whole society[88]. 


"... concepts of gender are not simply 'about' men and women ... they serve to construct and interpret other areas of social experience as well, including social segmentation and communal boundaries." (Dubisch 1993: 272)!ar

Women, therefore, actively establish and maintain the boundaries between the inside and the outside, they are responsible for the integrity of the family and the house. Unlike in the concept of 'honour & shame' which stresses women's pas­sivity, Dubisch interpretes their contribution to ensuring the integrity of the in­side as an active one. However, 'inside' does not merely mean the private, rather it is one facet of a complex conceptual framework of 'inside versus outside' ex­tending into both public and private areas, into both female and male spheres[89] (Dubisch 1993: 35-38, 280; see also Salamone & Stanton 1986).

Work for the house


Working is not something Greek-Cypriots like to do for its own sake, it is not a virtue as such. Working hard is only worth for certain things, particularly for the well-being of the family and the house.


"... the houses are homes identified with the labour, life-history, taste and personality of their owner." (Loizos 1977b:8)


People are more than happy to invest everything they have into their house. Money well spent is money spent for the family and the spiti. Before one has built a house for oneself or for one's daughter, not much money is sacrificed for anything else. The house is the reward for one's labour and that is why it is worth working.

One young woman who is critical of the Cypriot 'house mania' made the follo­wing prognosis about the way I would certainly change if I were to stay in Cyprus:


"If you were to stay in Cyprus for another few years, you would want to have your own house and car ... working, working ... you would take on the Cypriot mentality ... our life is full of stress, because we want to build these houses. Once you have finished your house, like my mother... just recently, well, they had built the house, but then they needed furniture, things ... and now they have a lot of stress for my house."


The loss of houses


Having the significance of the house in mind, it becomes clear that the loss of one's spiti is one of the most tragic things that can happen to a Greek-Cypriot per­son. Houses are irreplaceable. Nothing is quite like home, and by this Greek-Cypriots literally mean their house (cf. Loizos 1981: 130/200; 1977b: 7-9). The refu­gees are "mourning for ... a pattern of meaning" (Loizos 1977b: 8-9). Due to women's central place and position in the house, refugee women suffer particu­larly strongly from the loss of their houses[90]. Loizos (1981: 177) even talks of a "sense of amputation" they have experienced. The following statement by one of them is indicative of this.


"The land (topos) where you were born is different from any other place. It is a big difference! It is not the same here. Whatever they will give you, you don't value it like your land, your house where you were born, even if they gave you a kingdom. Whatever we have here, we want to return to our houses, to our land. I have worked from an early age on to build my house. I got the land from my mother but I worked myself to build a house. I started to work at the age of fifteen to build a house and just when it was finished, they took it away from me. It is mainly psychological, you know, what goes to pieces. ... It is as if you are not at home, as if you were a foreigner, you lose your friends, your own ones, your relatives, we were six brothers and sisters but we have lost each other (we are spread all over the island now), you lose your (social) circle... like a bird on its own[91]. Here I have nobody. When I gave birth, I had nobody, when I was sick, neither mother nor brother, nobody. Alone with my husband. But if you are at home, you have your family, relatives, close to you. We all went where our husbands found work. But in Morfu (the town she is from) we had built so that all sisters would be together, you know, in the same row of houses, we all wanted to live there, together. My mother told us to build like that so that we would all stay together, so that we would help each other. Then the terrible thing happened and we came here. Each one of us went somewhere else."


slmult0One day when I was helping a friend of mine, a refugee woman, making cheese, she all of a sudden bursted out:


"Oh, it is difficult not to be able to go to your house knowing that it is only half an hour's drive away. If only we could go! Do you know what it means to have invested so much work and then to lose everything within an hour? It is terrible. And even if we could go across to the North, if the borders were to open, could I then go into my house? Or would I have to stand in front of my own door not being able to go in? This house here (she lives in a former Turkish-Cypriot house) is not ours, it belongs to Turkish people."


The loss of the house means much more than its material loss. Along with it a family's identity and history is lost as illustrated by the following story told by a 20-year-old woman:


" I know of a refugee family, the grandmother, the mother and the daughter ... and when she (the daughter) was young, her mother had taken her to the Green Line (the border between North and South) and had shown her where herself and her own mother had been born and she said so her: 'Over there is our spiti', and the daughter answered her: 'Mama, I was born in Pafos, how can I say that my spiti is over there?'"


The weather forecast on Greek-Cypriot television still gives the temperature in the occupied areas every eve­ning despite the fact that no Greek-Cypriot can go there. But it still seems to be of interest to the refugees to know what kind of weather there is 'at home'.


The absolutely central meaning of the house for Greek-Cypriots was brought home to me once again after I had left Cyprus when I got a letter from a friend of mine who is a refugee from the town of Kerynia. It included a visiting-card which read:


To spiti mou einai sthn Keruneia. Ekei zw. M�995enw twra: ...

My home/house is in Kerynia. There I live. Presently I stay at ...


then came the present address. 


2. Constructing group-consciousness: The notion of the house


The notion of the house is mainly used as a delimitating factor excluding the Turks from mainland Turkey, though there is an integrative aspect to it as well which I will discuss first.


 Inclusion of Turkish-Cypriots


Inside the house

Turkish-Cypriots are thought to be civilized in their bahaviour inside the house according to Greek-Cypriot standards of what civilization means. They are thought to value the inside of the house as much as Greek-Cypriots do them­selves. This is the first aspect leading to their inclusion into the group defined as insiders, the Cypriots. A statement which I will quote in the section about pro­cesses of exclusion illustrates this.


The loss of houses

The Turkish-Cypriots were forced to leave their houses and many people claim that they cried when they were taken away. Because the Turkish-Cypriots are per­ceived to share the Greek-Cypriot notion of the house, loosing their homes must have been as tragic for them as it was for the Greek-Cypriots. The following state­ment in which the loss of  houses stands as a symbol of the refugee experience in general, was made by a Greek-Cypriot refugee.


"And, I remember, when we came to Pafos, the Turkish-Cypriots did not want to leave, from Pafos. They cried and cried! I tell you honestly, they sat on the street and cried and did not want to go away. And they said: 'Here I have my s!piti, I want to stay, and they brought them away in busses.'"


A couple of people added to this sort of statement that the Turkish-Cypriots entrusted their houses to their Greek-Cypriot neighbours and friends until their expected return. Both Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots believed that they were going to go back to their homes which neither of them did to this day.


Exclusion of Turks


Inside the house

The following statements will illustrate both the inclusion of the Turkish-Cypriots and the exclusion of the Turks by means of their respective behaviour inside the house.


"The Turks are different from ours (the Turkish-Cypriots). They don't have the same way of keeping house, they are different, they are not inte­rested in having a table and chairs to sit at and eat, ... not like the Turkish-Cypriots, the Turkish-Cypriots used to have this ..., even more than us ... this... inside the house, because they saw how we lived and they identified with it and became like us."


"They are not a cultivated people. They are still very backwards. They come into their houses and dig, in the middle of the house, of a room, and they make a fire and sit around it. They have no culture yet."


'The Turks have taken our houses'

On countless occasions people emphasized that the Turks have taken their houses, this being one of the absolutely inexcusable crimes they have committed in the course and after the war in 1974. Especially for the refugees, the loss of their houses and the fact that there is hardly any hope that they will ever return is one of the most difficult consequences of war they have to face. The loss of their houses is for Greek-Cypriots the ultimate proof that the Turks  are indeed a bad people and that they have no culture at all. Because by taking away the houses from the Greek-Cypriots, the Turks have attacked and deprived them of one of the most important notions of the Cypriot culture: one's own house. It is hard for Cypriot people to imagine something more barbarian and cruel.


"They took our property, our houses, the tombs of our grandfathers, these things, I cannot forget." 


"I am not a refugee, I didn't lose my house, but there are others who lost their house. They are even more hurt, and do not want the Turks at all, of course we don't want them either, but the refugees .. They drove us out of our houses, they took half of Cyprus, the most beautiful places. ... if the Turks were to come here and take my house, it would be very difficult indeed... to forget, to get over it, and the refugees feel the same."


The woman who said this is 31 years old. She works as a chambermaid in a hotel in Pafos. She lives with her mother and brother in one part of a pair of semi-de­tached houses that herself and her sister who lives in the other part have jointly built. Their mother's house had been on the same ground, but they had to demo­lish it because it was very old. She has invested ten years of her life to build this house and she would never consider moving away even if she was given a much bigger and more luxurious house, because this place in this neighbourhood is where she was born and where she grew up, where she has spent all of her life and plans to spend the rest of it, too. Neither could she imagine not living next to her sister's.


A 35-year-old man who is not in favour of bicommunal talks with the Turkish-Cypriot leadership explicated his position:


"Do you talk to someone who has taken your house from you?"


The answer is obvious. Another man, not a refugee himself, reacted in the same way when I told him that I had attended a bicommunal meeting in the captial:


!ctlpar"If you take my house and drive me away, shall I then sit at a table with you in order to negotiate?"


A couple who had, unlike most other people, the option of not moving into a Turkish-Cypriot house when they became refugees, decided not to do so. Their decision was a means by which they actively differentiated themselves from un­civilized acts such as seizing someone else's house. They explained:


"We didn't want to. I could not have lived in a Turkish-Cypriot house, not because it is Turkish, but because I did not want to take something which belongs to someone else."


Destruction! and sale of houses

Not only have the Turks deprived the Greek-Cypriots of their right - and this is a human right for the Greek-Cypriots - to live in their houses, they also neglect and willingly destroy them. This is as inexcusable and unforgivable as the destruction of holy and ancestral sites. This point was made again and again, at every oppor­tunity.

Before I went for a short visit to the occupied North of Cyprus for the first time, I was told that I was going to find lots of ruined houses and churches turned into pigsties. When I came back with my personal impression that this was not the case actually - I also brought some pictures back with me - I was immediately cor­rected that I had just not noticed the ruins of houses and holy sites or that, had I gone to small villages rather than towns, I would for sure have seen plenty of evidence of the Turks' destructive frenzy. This may be true, I do not know this from first hand experience. The point I want to make is that the argument of the destruction of Greek-Cypriot houses and holy sites figures so prominentely in the Greek-Cypriots' way of reasoning about the Turks, that it simply cannot be but true. A friend of mine reminded me that:


"... the demolishment of our homes was the last thing we saw. The last thing we remember is bombs dropping and us trying to get away, run­ning out of our houses, and behind us was like a typhoon sweeping everything away. That's our last memory. We haven't been back since."


What is worse than the Turks neglecting the houses they have stolen from their rightful owners is that they sell them. To Greek-Cypriots, this is the ultimate dis­respect for anything valuable to them.


" ... and they sell them to foreigners! English people for example. Our houses! This is a very big ... yesterday they said on TV, that a deputy of the English parlament has bought a house in Kerynia, a Greek house, and he bought it from the Turks! And it turned out that it had be­longed to someone who is here (in the South), and they sold his house to this English man!"


Moreover, the Turks are accused of attacking the house's most sacred realm: its interior. This is presented as characteric behaviour of Turkish people. They are said to break in other people's houses and of 'stealing everything out of your house' as well as of behaving violently inside the house against their own fa­mily. All of this violates the Greek-Cypriot notion of the house. Thus, people who do this sort of thing can never be insiders.


3. Turkish-Cypriot houses


I will end this chapter by pointing to a contradiction that I am at a loss to explain. People who otherwise emphasized the sameness of  Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots and that one could not tell a difference between them said - when talking about their refugee experience and the Turkish-Cypriot houses they had to move in at first for lack of something else - that the Turkish-Cypriot houses were dirty, that they were little more than miserable shacks. This is contradictory to what was said above. However, the three women who complained about the condition of their initial accomodation after having become refugees did this in order to illustrate the enormous loss they suffered through the invasion and the deterioration of their lifestyle rather than in order to distinguish between them­selves and the Turkish-Cypriots and to exclude the latter from their own group of people. Consider the following interview sequence:


"I did not get a house from my mother. ... I worked from an early age on, so that I would be able to build a house. I built it, I was engaged and we were ready to get married. I had sheets, all the things for the wedding, everything. The very day the invasion happened, my hus­band decorated the house where we were going to get married... They gave us, we got a Turkish-Cypriot house, but it was old! How can I tell you ... the walls were leaning, the plaster came off, old, dirty ... you know, Turkish-Cypriot, dirty, old houses, it was terrible, ... we struggled a lot... it rained into the house , and I had my first baby, it was cold, we struggled a lot, we suffered. I had built my own house in Morfu and then I came here and lived in such an old house, I was sad and I cried."


4. Summary


To summarize, the house is extremely important in Cyprus. In the notion of the house - as is the case for the notion of the family which in many ways is syno­nymous with the house -, all crucial values for Greek-Cypriots join up and con­centrate.

The notion of the house is invoked by Greek-Cypriots when they reason about both Turkish-Cypriots and Turks. It is crucial to the construction of in- and outsiders, of group-consciousness and belonging.




Ctes me skotwses, se skotwsa,                 Yesterday, you killed me, I killed you,

alloi, se baros mas kerdisan.                      Others won at our costs.

Emeis to mis3os ... thn katastrofh!               We won hate ... catastrophy!

'Ela, ela n'agaphqoume ...                             Come and let us reconcile ...

h ghs mas giomise calasmata.                        Our earth has filled with ruins.

'Ela﹪4 na xanaktisoume, geitona,                Come, neighbour, let us build

mia aulh to spiti mas ... aderfika.                houses with one yard again ...

                                                                                              like brothers and sisters. 


Artemhs Antwnio!u                                                         Artemis Antoniou, 1974, (my translation)


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VII  Further aspects


1. A note about the notion of locality and neighbourhood


In order to illustrate the point I want to make, I have chosen five notions I consi­der fundamental to Cypriot culture. Of course these are not exhaustive, one could add other notions such as that of the land (topos), of locality and neighbourhood. Consider for example the following statement by a 81-year-old refugee:


"We got on very well. We had Turkish-Cypriots as neighbours and we got on very well indeed. She (a Turkish-Cypriot neighbour) used to look after my children! Yes! She even looked after my children. Many times I gave her my Eleni (her daughter). She used to live across the street, and she was blind. She didn't see anything. She used to call me: 'Maria, go and get some water for me.' And I took her by the hand and we often sat together, since I was alone, too (she had lost her husband early). The Turkish-Cypriots were good, it is those from outside who have caused all the bad things."


With the refugees, the notion of locality and neighbourhood is salient primarily through its absence, through them bewailing its loss by which they mean the loss of their homeland and of village solidarity, of houses and family cohesion. It is not surprising therefore, that after twenty-two years of being refugees, they still identify very strongly with the now occupied places they come from.

For non-refugees, the notion of locality is very important, too. Greek-Cypriots strongly feel attached to where their predecessors came from. Loizos (1975a, parti­cularly p. 94-103) shows in his study of a Cypriot village that village solida­rity remains one of the strongest bonds in the face of changes due to moderniza­tion and involvment in politics. Villagers consider the benefits of their village mem­bership greater than those of getting involved in politics viewed by the villagers with great scepticism. Villagers rely on the inside, their village rather than on outside politics seen as potentially dangerous and disruptive. They spend a great deal of time trying to neutralize potentially negative effects of outside po­litics on village solidarity.

However, I did not experience the notion of locality to be as central as the notions I have chosen to discuss in detail which is why I have only briefly touched on it talking about the Cypriot house. Perhaps this is due to the invasion of 1974 and the subsequent dispersal of families, neighbours and friends all over Cyprus. However, it is interesting that even though neighbourhood does not seem to play such a prominent role in people's daily lives these days, they nevertheless exemplify the good relations between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots by means of the concept of the village and of neighbourhood. This means that the notions people employ to reason about other groups of people are indeed cultural, and not merely a reflection of someone's personal situation or priorities. I have made this point already in the discussion about the notion of religion showing that even outspokenly non-religious persons use the very notion of religion to illu­strate why the Turkish-Cypriots are good and the Turks bad.

Although they may not be exhaustive, I believe that the notions I have chosen to illustrate my point are crucial to any understanding of the processes of construc­ting group-consciousness amongst Greek-Cypriots. I have chosen them - and not the notion of locality for example -  because they are most evident in my own data, particularly in regard to participant observation.


2. Aspects of individual priority and gender


At the same time as the processes of constructing group-consciousness are based on culturally shared notions, there is an individual aspect to the way people reason about others, this being the emphasis on particular aspects. On the one hand, different emphases are related to one's own priorities. For example, out­spokenly non-religious persons draw on the notion of religion to reason about in- and outsiders, but they do not emphasize religion to the extent devout people do. On the other hand, emphases are related to gender. Though I could not detect any fundamental differences between what women and what men say about Turkish-Cypriots or Turks, gender plays a certain role in the way people remem­ber the Turkish-Cypriots. For example, a number of women told me personal memories about either a Turkish-Cypriot woman being the midwife of a Greek-Cypriot woman or vice versa. Women mentioned Turkish-Cypriot neighbours looking after their children while not a single man pointed to this in order to illustrate harmonious relationships. Men, on their part, often refer to sitting to­gether with Turkish-Cypriots in the kafenion, an exclusivly male space. When women recall the past in general, they often talk about turkalles, i.e. Turkish-Cypriot women, because due to gender related activities in Cypriot society, they basically have experiences with Turkish-Cypriot women rather than men.


3. About 'The stranger'


In his essay about 'The stranger', Schütz (cf. Schütz 1964) noted as early as in 1944 that people of a particular culture and background have an intersubjectively shared, historically built up idea of how other people they have never met, stran­gers, supposedly are. The 'knowledge' about the stranger is not based on first-hand experience, but it is anonymous and stereotypical. It is constantly recreated and learned through socialization within one's own group. It is not critically ex­amined until one actually meets such a stranger. If this happens, the anonymous stranger becomes a real person, in the face of which (negative or positive) stereo­types cannot be maintained, but "anonymous contents turn into definite social situations, ... ready-made typologies desintegrate" (Schütz 1964: 98).


Looking from the perspective not of a stranger approaching an in-group other than his or her own, as Schütz does, but from the perspective of the members of an in-group - in this case the Greek-Cypriots - 'approaching' a stranger or groups of strangers - in this case the Turkish-Cypriots and the Turks respectively -, Schütz' concept is valuable for an understanding of different people's point of view.

As far as the Turkish-Cypriots are concerned, one needs to distinguish between different age groups. For those people whose memory reaches back to the time be­fore the ethnically based separation of the Cypriot people took place in 1974, the Turkish-Cypriots are persons, not strangers. However, very young people with no personal experience and memory of the Turkish-Cypriots have been socia­lized (primarily in school) in a climate of anti-Turkish nationalism which lacks a differentiation between Turkish-Cypriots and Turks. Although the official ideo­logy does not explicitely brand the Turkish-Cypriots, they are simply ignored in history books which only reiterate the centuries-old antagonism between Greeks and Turks. It is the lack of discussion about the Turkish-Cypriots and their rela­tions to the Greek-Cypriots which causes some young people not to distinguish between Turkish-Cypriots and Turks, but to lump them all together. For them, both Turkish-Cypriots and Turks are strangers they have never met and probably never will. They have no personal experience with which to counter the stereo­types they learn.

As far as people from mainland Turkey are concerned and the Greek-Cypriots' perception of them, what I have discussed in the previous chapters is precisely how ideas about 'the stranger' develop, through which processes they are con­structed, since almost no Greek-Cypriot has ever actually met a Turk. The Turks are strangers to them all.

Practically everyone shares stereotypical ideas of the Turks from mainland Tur­key. However, there are very few exceptions which I have withheld so far. Intere­stingly enough, those very few people who do not share the ge­nerally accepted view of the Turks, are exactly those who have actually met Turkish people. I have got to know three such Greek-Cypriot persons. One of them -which I have portrayed in the chapter about the family and whose poems I have quoted - was taken prisoner by the Turkish army invading Cyprus in 1974. As as consequence, he actually met Turkish people, if under extreme and tragic circumstances.  Having had very stereotypical views about the Turks before, he changed his mind about them during his imprisonment, because by meeting them, they became people and human beings rather than strangers. He was a stranger himself approaching a group of strangers. "The approaching stranger ... becomes aware of the fact that ... his ideas of the foreign group, its cultural pat­tern, and its way of life, do not stand the test of vivid experience and social in­teraction" (Schütz 1964: 98-9). The second person I met who did not join in the general choir about the Turks being, by birth so to speak, savages, is a man who has met several Turks abroad. These two people are the only ones I know who have actually met any Turks from mainland Turkey. The third person - I have portrayed him in the chapter about the house - is an exception in that he refrains from judging the Turks on the grounds that he has never actually met a Turk and therefore does not know them. He opposes the idea of the stranger. I consider this friend of mine to be exceptionally open-minded.

I would like to end this note about the stranger with another interesting example showing how even among the Turkish-Cypriots there are some who are stran­gers and others who are not. A 41-year-old woman who comes from a formerly mixed village remembers the times of intercommunal violence very vividly. I have quoted her telling me the story of her mother giving birth early out of shock when Turkish-Cypriots attacked their house emphasizing though that these were Turkish-Cypriots from another, exclusively Turkish-Cypriot village, not their neighbours, not diki mas. She added an analysis of the process by which an idea about a stranger is built up herself:


"There were Turkish-Cypriots who were different (from those from our own village), those who did not know us, you know, just as I now say that the Turks are bad, they (the Turkish-Cypriots from the other village) talked about us like that because they did not know us, they said that we, the Greek-Cypriots, were bad, since they did not know us, isn't it like that? Ours (diki mas, the Turkish-Cypriots from her own village) were good. "


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[41]Maria Hadjipavlou sees this fact as one of the obstacles on the way towards a solution (personal communication).

[42]Another young woman born in 1975 for example said that she could tolerate Turkish-Cypriots and even Turks as long as they behave, so to speak. For her, the Turkish-Cypriots are foreigners as any others as well who can be accepted as long as they do not cause any trouble. They clearly are outsiders though and have no right as such to live in Cyprus.

[43]For a discussion of the notion of the family in Cyprus, see Loizos 1975a (particularly 63-84), 1981 and Peristiany 1965, 1968, 1976a who conducted fieldwork between 1954 and 1988 when he died.

[44]Cf. Peristiany 1968: 84. As on a Greek island described by Just, the  agnatic concept of soi  "plays no part in social life at all" (Just 1991: 121) in Cyprus either.

[45]For a discussion of the dynamics of marriage strategies and the resources - property as well as power and prestige - sought and employed, see Sant Cassia 1982. The situation seems to have been somewhat different in the late 1970s when he did fieldwork in the Pafos area. There is still a third party involved in initiating a potential marriage, and the first  meeting takes place at the third party's house, but this role is not a female one as Sant Cassia tells us, though I must add that I have only limited information about this. In the one case I observed, the whole family was involved and went  jointly to see the potential groom for their daughter.

[46]For further biblographical references, see Herzfeld 1982.

[47]The general purpose of Kenna's paper is to show the link between names and rights to property and the continuation of both through the generations of each gender.

[48]For a discussion of the politics of  changes in dating public celebrations, see Stamatakis 1994: 215-221.

[49]This is also visible in the ideals of Orthodox painting which has often been misinterpreted as rigid and lacking art. It is explicitely not the aim of an Orthodox icon painter to immortalize himself through his art, rather, he is trying to copy the original holy painting as precisely as possible without leaving any personal marks.

[50]Surnames relating to places of origin or residence for example are different in that respect.

[51]Cf. Peristiany 1968: 91; Loizos 1981: 39.

[52]See also Pitt-Rivers 1976 and Kenna 1976b. Pitt-Rivers interpretes the function of the 'compadrazgo' as caring for the individual side of a person rather than her or his membership of a collectivity. He understands 'compadrazgo' as a relationship between individuals as individuals rather than as members of families. Kenna suggests that through kumbaria the discrepancy between "the ideal of family independence and the necessity for ties outside the family" (1976b: 361) is bridged. However, I cannot agree with her description of bonds of trust and cooperation on a Greek island which she says are solely based on the nuclear family. At least in Cyprus, this does not seem to be true to me. Both authors, but particularly Pitt-Rivers, also point to the factor of patronage involved in kumbaria relationships.

[53]For a cross-cultural  analysis of baptism and compadrazgo (in Orthodoxy kumbaria) see Bloch & Guggenheim! 1981 discussing the ideological functions of these institutions. Bloch & Guggenheim interprete rituals of godparenthood as second, spiritual birth portrayed as purer than natural birth. This implies a devaluation of women as birth-givers and institutionalizes power over them as well as over men. Orthodox baptism and kumbaria is a typical example of Bloch & Guggenheim's argument which is visible for instance in the fact that during Orthodox baptism, the physical mother and father do not play an active role at all, but are degraded to mere spectators of the ritual somewhere in the back of the community witnessing it. Also, after having given birth, a woman is considered unclean and therefore, she is not allowed to enter the church for forty days after which the baby is supposed to be taken out of the house for the first time being brought to church. There it is blessed by the priest under the entrance to the holy part of the church and then taken to kiss the holy icons by its father. Only after this ritual does the mother enter the church, too.

[54]Artemis Antoniou is a Cypriot poet writing partially in the Cypriot dialect and a friend and in­formant of mine.

!hftn I wish to thank Maria Tsimouris for helping me with the Greek texts in this study including the summary at the end.

[56]There is exten!sive literature on the concept of 'honour and shame', developed by Peristiany (1965) and updated by him some thirty years later (Peristiany & Pitt-Rivers 1992). For a critique of this concept see Dubisch 1993.

[57]The Kykko monastery in the Troodos mountains is one of the most important ones in Cyprus.

[58]For more information about the Evil Eye in Greece, see Herzfeld 1981, Dionisopoulos-Mass 1976. Turkish-Cypriots seem to share the belief in the Evil Eye and in the ways of protection against it with Greek-Cypriots. An elderly Turkish-Cypriot woman once gave me an egg decorated with crotcheting from which a blue eye-bead is dangling as a protection against evil.

[59]Interestingly, I was told the exact opposite by an elderly Turkish-Cypriot woman who lives in the North of Cyprus. She considers the Turkish-Cypriots much more secular than the Greek-Cypriots: "They always went to church a lot, we only rarely went to the mosque."

[60]Everyone still refers to Istanbul as Konstantinupolis. because hardly anyone is aware that Istan­bul, too, is a word of Greek origin, meaning 'in the city' (Just 1989: 74).

[61]Linobambaki may be translated as 'those who are neither linen (lino) nor cotton (bambaki) and refers to those Greek-Cypriots  who officially converted to Islam in order to escape heavy taxation. They were both: officially Muslims and secretly Christians.

[62] Doing research in Pyla, the only still mixed village, would be the only possibility of studying  religious syncretism on a larger scale i!nvolving more than just very few individuals.

[63]Among them the contributors to Loizos & Papataxiarchis 1991, particularly Du Boulay (also 1986), Dubisch and Iossifides.

[64]Civil marriage has only been introduced a few years back.

[65]See, for example, Loizos 1981: 37-39, but many other authors also show the connection between state and church politics in Cyprus.

[66]For a discussion of patron-client relationships in Cyprus, see Loizos 1975!a, 1977a; Attalides 1977b. For contributions about patronage in other Mediterranean societies, see Gellner & Waterbury (eds.) 1977.

[67]For a detailed discussion of working relations between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots and the labour movement between 1910 and 1982, see Katzikides 1988.

[68]Here he refers to the joint miners' strike in 1948 which, lasting for over four months, was "the longest one in the history of trade unionism in the island" in which "the unity of the rank and file of the strikers of both communities remained to the end unbroken ..." (Kyrris 1977: 83).

[69]For an alternative situation in a Greek town, see Cowan 1991: 182-184.

[70]For a cross-cultural discussion of the symbolism of food creating kinship, see Carsten & Hugh-Jones 1995.

[71]For a discussion of the somewhat different symbolism of food in a Macedonian town  - stressing the different social meaning of food within  and between families - see Cowan 1991.

[72]Interestingly enough, Maratheftis (1989:14-15) chooses food as an example to illustrate the rela­tionship between researcher (himself, a Greek-Cypriot living abroad) and informants (his family amongst whom he conducted research).

[73]I was told that in the past weddings went on for three days whereby the first day consisted of eating resi and other special kinds of food. On the second day the couple !actually got married in church and on the third the whole village danced together.

[74]The Orthodox Lent could easily be interpreted within Bloch's theory of 'rebounding violence' (1992b) since the two crucial stages of the process of transforming 'prey into hunter' are obvious in Greek Orthodox Lent: firstly, the expulsion of earthly vitality (symbolized t!hrough the abstinence from nutritious food and particularly meat) and secondly the recovery and consumption of a new, transcendental vitality and life (symbolized by all food and particularly meat eaten after the Holy Communion).  "... the recovered vitality is mastered by the transcendental. Unlike the native vitality of the first stage which must be driven out of oneself, the vitality reintroduced in the second stage is taken from external sources and is consumed as the food of the transcendental subject, often literally through the mouth" (Bloch 1992b: 5-6).

[75]On the meaning of photographs for Greek-Cypriots, see Loizos 1981: 171-2, 186.

[76]For a discussion of the contributions of women to the decoration of the interior of the house, see Pavlides & Hesser 1986.!

[77]For a discussion of inner and outer spaces in Greek houses and the boundaries between them, see Dubisch 1986a & b.

[78]See, for example, Pavlides & Hesser/Du Boulay/Dubisch in: Dubisch 1986; and Du Boulay/­Iossifides in: Loizos & Papataxiarchis 1991; Loizos 1981, 1977b.

[79]For a discussion of changes within the tradition of the d!owry house due to historical circum­stances, cf. Loizos 1975 b. But see also Sant Cassia 1982 who writes that the changes discussed by Loizos never applied to the Pafos area. Loizos worked in the area of Morfu. In an article written shortly after the division of Cyprus (1977b), Loizos  notes that the tradition of the dowry house has been weakened. Nowadays though, this tradition seems to be very strong again.

[80]Pavlides & Hesser 1986 however discuss the reduced influence women can exert on the construction of houses in modernizing societies of rural Greece.

[81]This type of residence is not unusual in Greece either, cf. Loizos & Papataxiarchis 1991: 9-10.

[82]Sant Cassia (1982: 654) speeks of ipso facto marriages. This he interpretes as a political move by the woman's parents in order to keep the groom.

[83]Iossifides (1991: 140-1) notes that the house and the family are "vitalized" through women even in a patrilocal context (unlike in Cyprus) where "the house and the name of the ikoyenia define male ide!ntity".

[84]See Du Boulay 1974, 1986, 1991 who particularly stresses the spiritual and sacred aspect of the house.

[85]Compare Pavlides & Hesser 1986: 77, 79, 85; Dubisch 1986b: 198.

[86]There are quite a lot of foreigners, mainly English people, living in the Pafos area today; they buy the best places and build most expensive houses.

[87]The focus of the contributions to this new discussion of the concept introduced by Peristiany in 1965 which was "a preface to the anthropology of the Mediterranean" (Peristiany & Pitt-Rivers 1992: 1) lies on the notion of grace and its relation to the sacred. "If individual will is the essence of honor, the essence of grace is the will of God" (Pitt-Rivers 1992: 222). Peristiany's contribution deals with the notion of honor and grace in a Cypriot village.

[88]A similar line of argument is taken up by Herzfeld (1981) discussing the Evil Eye in Greece and interpreting it as an expression of boundary maintenance between insiders and outsiders rather than as an isolated phenomenon.

[89]For an excellent discussion of the central position of the house in Basque society, see Ott 1992. There, the house is " a spiritual, social, and moral entity" (p. 196) linking the realm of the living and that of the dead which is also related to issues of gender and to the concept of 'inside versus outside', of social order and disorder.

[90]Cf. Loizos 1981: 176-81 discussing the consequences of the flight in terms of women's association with the interior of the house.

[91]About the dispersal of the families, cf. Loizos 1981: 172-76.


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