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The Politics of Language Use in Postcolonial Cyprus: Textual Seduction in the Mediterranean

Christofides, Roger M. (2010) The Politics of Language Use in Postcolonial Cyprus: Textual Seduction in the Mediterranean. Interventions: The International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 12 (3). pp. 415-427. ISSN 1369-801X

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Abstract

As renewed talks for the reunification of Cyprus encounter familiar barriers, this essay urges the reader to consider the importance of language use in the Greek Cypriot community. Drawing on Jacques Derrida’s work on speech and writing, it examines the political significance of Demotic Greek and the Cypriot Greek spoken every day, arguing that the conflicts of Greek Cypriot identity since decolonization are played out by the tension between the two forms of Greek. Demotic use invokes an essential Greek identity that excludes the Oriental, particularly Turkish, other. However, its use remains primarily written even though it summons the classical philosophy and Greek Orthodoxy that celebrate speech, not writing, as the mode of self--expression. Paradoxically, the use of written Demotic presents a Hellenized version of Cyprus at the same time that it undermines one of the foundational principles of Hellenic culture. Cypriot Greek persists in speech, resisting the textual seduction and invasion by Demotic. It can, with its explicit, supranational diversity, be understood as a celebration of Cypriot difference that demonstrates the multi--faceted construction of identity on the island. Indeed, Cypriot Greek deconstructs the hierarchical opposition between Occidental and Oriental. In its difference from Demotic, Cypriot Greek invokes the polyculturalism of Cyprus, an instance of the diversity too often ignored and repressed in diverse locations across the Mediterranean and the Middle East with tragic consequences.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
Depositing User: Roger Christofides
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2012 14:10
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2012 14:10
URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/14912

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