Spatiality and Conflict: The Archaeology and Anthropology of space in conflict zones

'(Social) space is a (social) product… the space thus produced also serves as a tool of thought and of action; that in addition to being a means of production it is also a means of control, and hence of domination, of power; yet that, as such, it escapes in part from those who would make use of it.'
Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), p. 26.

The 'spatial turn' is now well established in the social sciences, through the work of Henri Lefebvre and geographers like Edward Soja. Space in this sense is socially constructed. Physical spaces stand in a dialectical relationship with the societies that inhabit them. What happens to these spaces when conflict occurs and what happens to our interpretations in spaces that lie within zones of conflict?
This session will explore two key themes. The first theme is how do spaces shape our response and experience of conflict, be that domestic space, communal space or the wider landscape? How do we react to the restriction of physical space that was once open and undisputed and is now inaccessible? How does this affect social spaces and relationships? How are power relationships expressed through spatiality and how are those power relationships inverted and contested?
The second theme will examine how we as archaeologists and anthropologists respond to zones of conflict? How do we study and research within regions that are disputed? How does the spatiality of conflict affect our interpretations and reception of our work?
Together these two streams explore our perception and experience of spatiality and conflict.

 

Individual paper abstracts:

Simone Paturel (Newcastle University)
Spatiality, Memory and Conflict in Beirut: Living the Civil War and After

Conflict is inevitably spatial and space often leads to conflict. Territory holds resource and emotional value and is the source of conflict between those that seek control. Power relations are determined through spatial relations. Dispute over spaces leads to their reconfiguration, destruction and renewal. Social memory also plays a significant role in spatial relations during and after conflict. Memory is used to claim spaces for particular agendas while forgetting is also used to eliminate inconvenient pasts.
This paper explores spatiality, memory and conflict in Beirut during and after the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990. The account is drawn from my own personal experience of the civil war, having lived in the Beirut suburb of Achrafieh until 1987. I explore the role that spatiality plays in conflict on a personal level, considering how the forced reconfiguration of space affects daily life and how conflict redefines spatial relations and vice versa. Social memory was an important element in this conflict as the different participants constructed new narratives to suit the changing political situation. In a similar way the history of Lebanon was reconfigured after the conflict to construct new personal and political identities in the post civil war era.
Conflict is often seen in causal terms through a narrative of 'who did what to whom' or a chronology of war and peace. This paper aims to redress the balance and explore how spatiality and memory construct personal experience in a time of conflict.

Andrew Green (Independent Researcher)
'Space, Power and Conflict: theorizing the relationship between social space and violence'

Spaces have long been seen as contested in a physical sense as territory to be fought over or the space where violence occurs. Yet this perspective on space is limited to seeing it as a resource to be owned and exploited. The 'spatial turn' provides an opportunity to explore the relationship between (social) space and violence in much greater depth. Power relationships are expressed spatially; Foucault expressed this by expanding his well-known Power-Knowledge dialectic to include Space while Henri Lefebvre saw violence as essential to the growth of the politico-economic space and central to the foundation of the modern state.  Edward Said's Orientalism is also fundamentally spatial, consisting of the creation of an 'imaginative geography' that 'othered' Eastern culture. This paper examines how these ideas and others can be applied in two contexts. Firstly to explore the relationship between spatiality and violence where those spaces in question are the under archaeological study, and secondly to explore the archaeologist's relationship to contested spaces within which she or he is working.

Michael Walsh (Eastern Mediterranean University)
Bordering History / Historicizing Borders: Nationalism, Internationalism and the Fate of Famagusta

The historic walled city of Famagusta, located just inside the borders of the internationally unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, is a priceless cultural resource in the Eastern Mediterranean. Here, forgotten, lies the enormously wealthy artistic and architectural legacy of Byzantine, Lusignan, Genoan, Venetian, Ottoman, British and Cypriot rule. In its one thousand year history, Famagusta has been the meeting point of East and West, Christian and Muslim, Greek and Turkish, and today lies on the border / fault line between the Europe Union and Asia. A matter of a few kilometers from the UN Green Line which divides the island of Cyprus militarily, and now doomed by its isolation in an unrecognized state, Famagusta faces an inappropriately bleak future, to follow its rich though turbulent past. Political borders have entrenched it, while manipulations of the historical mind, have re-positioned it as 'out of reach' to the world. Its suburb of Varosha (in Greek) / Maraş (in Turkish) is behind a secondary military border and has been a ghost city for 34 years – its population forcibly and hastily expelled. The borders around this city, and its collectivized and nationalized memory (for Greeks/Christians and Turks/Muslims alike), are absolute. This paper examines the historical and cultural legacy of Famagusta and places it within a modern understanding of the nationalism and internationalism which still determines its fate.  The paper also looks at the efforts made to re-engage the international community and reports on some early successes in this process of heritage welfare management through the European Union and the US based World Monuments Fund.

Uwe Muller (Eastern Mediterranean University)

The Kral Tepesi/Vasili Salvage Excavation Project

In June 2004, an exceptional bronze hoard was found on top of the hill Kraltepe/Vasili close to the village of Kaleburnu/Galinoporni on the Karpaz peninsula, Cyprus. It contains 26 bronze objects. Similar objects have only been found in connection with elites in Cyprus and the Levant. The Kraltepe/Vasili bronze objects, along with a stirrup jar found right next to them, date to the Late Cypriot IIC/IIIa phase of the Cypriot Bronze Age (13th - 12th century BC).

The bronze hoard from Kraltepe/Vasili is at present the largest one known in Late Bronze Age Cyprus. It is the only one that also comprises three incense burners. The geographical distribution of comparable objects clearly suggests connections to the Levant, indicating far-reaching supra-regional contacts of the ruling elite on Kraltepe/Vasili.

The site is endangered by erosion and parts of the plateau are lost every year. For this reason, DAKMAR – the research centre for cultural heritage of the Eastern Mediterranean University – started collaboration with European institutes and universities to conduct a salvage excavation programme, including the restoration and conservation of the bronze hoard. Despite of its salvage character the project had to face an enormous amount of politically motivated protests.
Focussing on the architecture and a variety of small finds, this paper will discuss the place of Kraltepe/Vasili in the Eastern Mediterranean and its international contacts, as well as the problems of salvage work in disputed regions.

Matthew Harpster (Eastern Mediterranean University)
Rethinking Archaeology in Disputed Territories

The UNESCO Second Protocol of 1999, which updated the UNESCO Hague Convention of 1954, limits archaeological activity in occupied territory to work performed to "safeguard, record, or preserve cultural property."  UNESCO, as it views the northern 38 percent of Cyprus as occupied territory, feels that this convention applies to this disputed region.  While this regulation itself contains a number of interpretive conflicts – it never defines what kind of archaeological activity does, or does not, safeguard cultural property, for example - the virtual lack of archaeological activity in northern Cyprus is also representative of a regional view of what archaeology is.  Historically, archaeological activity in Cyprus has been characterized by excavations and, as such work is inherently destructive, it is thus perceived as an activity that cannot also preserve cultural property.  Excavations, as a result, are virtually absent in northern Cyprus because of the view that they conflict with the UNESCO regulations.  In August of 2008, however, an international team conducted an underwater archaeological survey along part of the coastline of northern Cyprus in an effort both to document material, and to apply a new methodology that does not require intrusive activity to collect and interpret its data.  The purpose of this paper is to expand upon the issues raised above, as well as to demonstrate that legitimate archaeological practices, above or below water, are still viable in disputed regions governed by such international regulations.

Allan Langdale (University of California: Santa Cruz) 

Sites of Memory / Sites of Malice: Graves, Churches, and Ethnic Spaces in Northern Cyprus

In teasing out a rhetoric of contentious spatialities for Cyprus no sites are more eloquent or more socially charged than the ruined Byzantine and Orthodox churches and graveyards in northern Cyprus. Similarly, nowhere are the historical moments of ethnic rage so vividly evident even after 34 years. This paper examines the tensions and stratagems that have been used since the Turkish intervention of 1974 regarding the exiled sacred sites, the responses of those exiled from them, and the reactions of those who currently are in physical 'ownership'. This study hopes to analyze the specific problematic of the Cyprus situation in terms of its ecclesiastical and funerary sites, around which several strands of social anxiety are gathered.

The material for this study consists of a range of artifacts, including photographs of Orthodox graveyards, which today remain torn apart as they were in late August of 1974. Here, for example, the nature of the iconoclasm is examined as an instance of the extirpation of 'Greekness' from the land (i.e. unburying the dead so they cannot 'occupy' the land). In other cases, the sacred sites of Orthodox churches—still sacred loci for Greek Cypriots, now existing for them only in memory and imagination—are converted by Turkish authorities to tourist sites or neglected as 'ruins' thus creating a dialectic of physical 'ownership' but social/functional denial.

Greek Cypriot representations, most notably the publication Cyprus: A Civilization Plundered will also be examined in terms of their value as directing historical/ethnographic 'readings' of Turkey's intervention and the 'barbarity' of Turks. Other instances include a brief case study of the destruction of the Avgasida Monastery Church in response to the mass killings of Turkish Cypriots by retreating Greek Cypriot paramilitaries in late August of 1974. In a compilation of contested spaces and objects the Cyprus ethnic division thus finds a configuration beyond the standardized, purely political representation.

The range of engagement ranges from the very private to the wider public social tensions in Cyprus. I will consider, for instance, the case of a profoundly personal narrative with regards to the churches of northern Cyprus: a forty-year old Greek Cypriot woman who, without telling anyone (even her family), snuck to northern Cyprus to visit her village church which she had last seen when she was 6 years old.

The paper also considers recent attempts to reintroduce a dialogue of bi-communality on Cyprus and a reframing of exiled spaces and revisionism of the conflict and rewriting of memory (confession, forgiveness, reconciliation). The potentials for compromise and the difficult road to remapping the spatialities of conflict, both actual and figurative, are discussed as a way to re-envision a unified notion of 'Cyprus'.