Us and Them - Teenagers Constructions of National Identity in Cyprus
Sociology Queens University Belfast Belfast, N. Ireland
This paper is concerned with exploring children's constructions of national identity in Cyprus. It is based on focus group interviews with 20 Turkish Cypriot and 20 Greek Cypriot children aged between 13-15 years of age and the research was carried out during 2008-2009. This focus is timely given recent political developments in Cyprus including the accession of the South to the European Union, the 2003 opening up of the border crossings, the stalemate around the Annan Plan and the increasing national and international pressure to find a solution. Desipite a burgeoning research focus on Cyprus, the attitudes of children to the future political status of the island remains muted. Children are often portrayed as passive victims of adult conflicts and their own experiences and perceptions are often sidelined by adult foucsed research agendas. Yet since children have lived their childhoods within a social, cultural and historical framework produced by the 1974 division of the island, research within this context could provide a useful understanding of how children construct and negotiate their national identities within a constantly shiftling wider world during a particular stage of the life cycle. National identity is considered here as a social identity that acts on the individual along with other social identities such as gender and age. Within politcally contested societies, the salience of national identity is likely to be intense. While socialisation is likely to play a major role in the formation of national identity,, this obscures the extent to which children play an active role in constructing a multiplicity of childhoods. The paper will explore the capacity and willingness of children to engage in a critical reflection of constructions of national identity and will explore their perceptions of how national identity is transmitted, perpetuated and challenged across generations.