Iris Pissaride is a PhD candidate at the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge. Her research explores coloniality and identity in Cyprus. Through archival analysis she traces knowledge in and about Cyprus, produced by colonial administrators. More specifically, she focuses on how colonial knowledge production was cemented and normalized — institutionally and epistemologically — through the development of colonial archaeological discourse and museum practices that highlighted western-centric narratives of history and belonging. She received her MPhil from Cambridge in 2015 with a thesis entitled “Identities in Liminal spaces: Encounters with the Past and with the ‘Other’ in post-conflict Cyprus” after which she became interested in the
interrelations between sociology and art practice. In 2016 she worked with Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam as a guest-curator, and joined the editorial board of the academic journal for the arts, Kunstlicht. She became Editor-in-Chief of the journal in 2018. Her latest interdisciplinary project “Re-signifying views: an exercise in decolonizing on/for/ from Cyprus” was launched last December at Phaneromenis 70 Cultural & Research Foundation, in Cyprus. She was the receiver of the Vice-Chancellor’s & St Edmund’s Luzio PhD Scholarship (2018-2021), the Leventis Foundation Scholarship (in 2014 and 2018), and an Economic Social Research Council DTP Studentship (2018-2021).
Identity as Colonial Discourse
At the beginning of the 20th century, British archaeological expeditions were starting to unearth objects from what they considered the “ancient Greek” cultures of their newly acquired colony of Cyprus. The narrative of Cyprus as an ancient Greek space now belonging to the British Empire fit perfectly with the Empire’s imagined history and its self-representation as a civilizing power.
As unearthed artefacts assumed the role of evidence for a certain Greek-Christian ethnoreligious identity in Cyprus, accommodation for a more flexible or diverse understanding of belonging gave way to western-centric identities constructed by colonial administrators. Those identified as non-western peoples and objects within the island were gradually “othered” or understood as the latter
part of an “us-them” binary. In reflecting on the above, this paper traces how colonial constructs of identity were institutionalised during the colonial era in/of Cyprus, through archaeological practice and discourse. Methodologically the paper analyses writings of colonial administrators and archaeologists as well as local religious elites. In viewing colonial archaeological practice and discourse as tools of identity construction and promotion, the paper explores how ethnoreligious notions of belonging that still hold power in Cypriot politics today, are intrinsically linked to colonial western-centric agendas and interpretations. Exploring Cypriot identity as a colonial discourse — one that still stands in post-colonial Cyprus — opens the path for deconstructing its parts. Instead of viewing identity as a categorical concept, we are able to trace some of the colonial networks and actors that constrict and produce the representational mechanisms of subject formation in early 20th century in the island. In so doing the paper ultimately argues that in order to go beyond identity we must first trace its colonial discursive foundations and then analyse their consequent institutionalisations in nationalism and state-building mechanisms.