Accepted Paper:

Performing Modernity: The Greek Cypriot Family Album  


Nicos Philippou (University of Nicosia)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses the discrepancy between the vision of Cypriotness as constructed through a process of ‘looking down’ to a cultural and class ‘Other’ where Cypriot claims to modernity are denied with that of representations of the self where Cypriots are shown embracing modernity, instead.

Paper long abstract:

The paper briefly discusses a travelogue on colonial Cyprus produced by writer - photographer M.O. Williams in the July 1928 edition of the National Geographic Magazine titled Unspoiled Cyprus/ The Traditional Island Birthplace of Venus is One of the Least Sophisticated of Mediterranean Lands. The story constructs an image of Cyprus, which is defined by aesthetic and thematic parameters that highlight tradition and pureness. Manifestations of an emerging dynamic Cypriot modernity are avoided. The paper engages with the product of a prominent local romantic school of photography (1950's-1970's) which is, also, defined by a purist aesthetic and content which can be seen as a visual 'fulfilment' of a fantasy of a Cypriot rural heaven in the collective imagination of the local middle classes. It then discusses the parallel development of a Cypriot photographic vernacular, which aesthetically and semantically departs from these established traditions. It presents numerous examples collected from family albums (late 1920's-1970's). While this material chronologically overlaps with the period that saw the visit by Williams and the advent of the local romantic photographic photographers it tells the story of a society that perceives itself and wants to be seen as modern and urban rather than as traditional and pastoral. It is argued that this visual construction of modern identities is not the product of mere mimitism. Instead it is the symbolic manifestation of real social and material changes that were reshaping Cypriot society at the time and had given birth to urbanity, individualism and emerging emancipation movements.

Panel P15
Afterimages: Putting ethnography into the family album