Formal and Non-formal Reform Efforts of History Teaching in Cyprus: Openings and Closures for Dangerous Memories and Reconciliation Pedagogies

  • Michalinos ZembylasEmail author
  • Hakan Karahasan
Open Access


The purpose of this chapter is to explore the potential of history teaching in formal and non-formal education spaces to facilitate conflict transformation processes, focusing in particular on the role of dangerous memories and reconciliation pedagogies . For this reason, we discuss openings and closures for the facilitation of conflict transformation in recent efforts for educational reform of history teaching in the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot educational systems in divided Cyprus. The chapter is divided into four parts. First, a discussion on memory, history and identity sets the theoretical ground for addressing how dangerous memories could facilitate conflict transformation. Second, a brief review of recent formal reform efforts on history teaching is provided in the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot educational systems to show the challenges of promoting dangerous memories. Third, the work of NGOs working with both Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot teachers shows some openings for reconciliation pedagogies and dangerous memories. The chapter ends with a broader discussion of the role that could be played by reconciliation pedagogies to promote dangerous memories through both formal and non-formal education efforts.

One of the most significant tensions in efforts to deal with past historical traumas and promote reconciliation in education is what to do with people’s memories. Should people forget past traumas of their communities in order to construct new, anti-essentialist identities that are not locked in past (group) identities? Or should they remember? ‘Is it good, is it healthy, to do so? Is it better to forget and move on?’ asks Bourguignon (2005, p. 64). This debate forces educators to confront many haunting issues, not the least of which is the relationship among education, memory and history. However, this debate is not just about whether children should be taught to remember the past, but rather about how the past is interpreted (Streich 2002). Given that historical legacies and memories embedded in collective identities cannot be simply wished away, and past historical traumas continue to shape identities and structures in the present (Booth 1999), this issue may be rephrased as follows: How can educators use past historical traumas pedagogically to re-socialize children in a manner that is not locked into predefined scripts and collective memories (Hill 2000)?

A central concept we utilize in this chapter to respond to this question is the notion of memory as dangerous, that is, memory as disruptive to the status quo, which is the hegemonic culture of strengthening and perpetuating existing group-based identities (Ostovich 2002, 2005). Social Identity Theory (Tajfel and Turner 1986) and Self-Categorization Theory (Turner 1999) teach us that people are motivated to evaluate their in-group as better, superior and worthy. This motivation is grounded in the assumption that group-based identities are essentialized, static and tribalistic, because they are built on the notion of separating ‘us’ (the ‘good’) from ‘them’ (the ‘bad’) (Hill 2000). Dangerous memories are potentially subversive to those identities and may create new narratives and identities that do not retain essentialism. Needless to say, there is not a particular kind or source of memory that is dangerous per se (Ostovich 2002, 2005). The danger is in the practice of remembering the past in new ways that are disruptive to taken-for-granted assumptions about a group’s identity; such ways establish new understandings of personal and collective identities that enable solidarity and conflict transformation. The question that is of concern, then, is: How can there be education spaces that encourage dangerous memories and contribute to conflict transformation, especially when hegemonic powers work tremendously hard to sustain essentialized memories?

As noted by Psaltis, Carretero and Cejahic-Clancy in Chap.  1, theoretical models of conflict transformation emphasize the importance of understanding the processes that enable the transformation of conflict from its destructive forms into a more productive one which is recognized as part of everyday struggles to negotiate power in socially just ways. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the potential of history teaching in formal and non-formal education spaces to facilitate conflict transformation processes, focusing in particular on the role of dangerous memories and reconciliation pedagogies . For this reason, we discuss openings and closures for the facilitation of conflict transformation in recent efforts for educational reform of history teaching in the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot educational systems in divided Cyprus . Our aim is to outline some insights from this endeavour—insights that may help history educators recognize the potential of dangerous memories and reconciliation pedagogies in conflict transformation.

This chapter is divided into four parts. First, a discussion on memory, history and identity sets the theoretical ground for addressing how dangerous memories could facilitate conflict transformation. Second, a brief review of recent formal reform efforts on history teaching is provided in the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot educational systems to show the challenges of promoting dangerous memories. Third, the work of NGOs working with both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot teachers shows some openings for reconciliation pedagogies and dangerous memories. This chapter ends with a broader discussion of the role that could be played by reconciliation pedagogies to promote dangerous memories through both formal and non-formal education efforts.

Dangerous Memories and Conflict Transformation

Memory plays a major role in structuring national identity (Kansteiner 2002) and sustaining a sense of self in and through the communities in which individuals belong and relate to others (Epstein 2001; Middleton and Edwards 1990). The connection between memory and identity raises two important issues: first, it highlights the political and emotional value of collective memories because past representations are preserved through social and ideological practices such as commemoration sites and rituals; second, the connection between memory and identity suggests that memory is created in interaction between and among people in social and political contexts (Conway 2003; Middleton and Edwards 1990; Olick 1999; Zerubavel 1996). Developments in social psychology over the last several decades show how social identity processes are crucial not only in maintaining positive social identity (Tajfel and Turner 1986; Turner 1999), but also in undertaking collective action to subvert hegemonic societal mechanisms and structures (van Zomeren et al. 2008).

However, one of the gaps in collective action theories, as noted by Psaltis, Carretero and Cejahic-Clancy, is how various forms of representation about self and others are entangled with ideologies such as nationalism in divided societies. For example, what gets defined as ‘official’ memory reflects the power of certain groups and ideologies in society to define the past according to their interests, often by silencing alternative and competing memory discourses (Conway 2003; Epstein 2001; Middleton and Edwards 1990). Efforts to change these representations—e.g. by promoting ‘prejudice reduction’ interventions through intergroup contact—may not always be successful or may actually work to strengthen dualisms of good/bad and perpetrator/victim (Dixon et al. 2012). Yet, if such dualisms are so rigid and the cycle of nationalism is simply renewed every time through different means, then one wonders about the prospects of collective action for reconciliation.

This tension is particularly evident in historical narratives taught in schools in many conflict and post-conflict societies, whereas such narratives provide a framework through which children make sense of and lay claim to a national collective memory (Davies 2004; Siegel 2002). History curricula implore students to remember the nation’s glories, leaders and warriors through practices which aim at establishing a historical consciousness that ‘aligns forgetting with evil forces’ (Eppert 2003, p. 186) that threaten to destroy the nation’s identity and its very existence. In fact, one of the functions of collective memory is to highlight the victimhood of the in-group and silence the traumatic experiences of the out-group members, what has become known as one-sided victimization narrative (Bekerman and Zembylas 2012).

However, students and teachers are not dopes answering the mandates of ‘politics of memory’ (Todorov 2003; Simon 2005). Instead, a sense of rupture with official historical narratives and essentialized identities may be grounded in the notion of dangerous memories , for this idea challenges assumptions that ‘transmitted memories’ are endlessly powerful and thus can facilitate conflict transformation processes. Dangerous memories are not a particular kind or function of memory that can be isolated and defined, points out Ostovich (2002, 2005); rather, they are ‘a disruptive practice of and from memory’ (2002, p. 239, added emphasis). Any memory can become dangerous when it resists the prevailing historical narratives. What makes though a memory to be disruptive and therefore valuable to facilitate conflict transformation?

Dangerous memories are disruptive, for example, when they call for solidarity with the ‘enemy’ on the basis of common human suffering. These kinds of disruptions come as dangerous memories when we remember events of the past that question our consciences and assumed horizons; ‘dangerous’, then, takes the meaning of challenging, critical and hopeful while propelling individual and collective consciousness into a new process of narrativization. Re-claiming forgotten connections with others involves acts of compassion, self-criticality and resistance to the status quo.

As we are trapped in egotistic and ethnocentric mentalities, dangerous memories interrupt our endless cycle of selfishness and open up our eyes to the suffering of others (Metz 1972, 1980). As Metz notes in the context of violence and hatred in former Yugoslavia,

[T]he memory of suffering became a shroud for the whole nation and a stranglehold on any attempt at interethnic rapprochement. Here a particular people have remembered only their own suffering, and so this purely self-regarding memoria passionis became not an organ of understanding and peace, but a source of hostility, hatred and violence. (Metz 1999, p. 230)

Following the spirit of the political theology of Metz means that the patterns of past violence and hatred may be subverted and solidarity with ‘enemies’ can be inspired through the memory of common suffering with others. In other words, dangerous memories could facilitate conflict transformation by highlighting practices grounded in solidarity with others. For example, this solidarity requires a constant openness and criticality to one’s self and transformation and a willingness to recognize our connections to another’s suffering—through attention to their memories of suffering such as listening to their stories and working with them to alleviate suffering.

The relevance of dangerous memories to critical education has been discussed by Giroux (1997) who suggests that,

transformative intellectuals need to begin with a recognition of those manifestations of suffering that constitute historical memory, as well as the immediate conditions of oppression. The pedagogical rationality at work here is one that defines radical educators as bearers of ‘dangerous memory,’ intellectuals who keep alive the memory of human suffering along with the forms of knowledge and struggles in which such suffering was shaped and contested. (p. 105)

But how easy is to question hegemonic forms of collective memory and identity in education and highlight dangerous memories grounded in solidarity with the Other’s suffering? In the following sections of the chapter, we provide two examples that show both openings and closures in terms of for how dangerous memories could facilitate conflict transformation. The first example comes from formal efforts to reform history education in the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot educational systems in divided Cyprus ; the second example, which is presented in the section that follows, comes from the non-formal work of civil society organizations.

History Teaching in Cyprus: Educational Reforms at the Formal Level

In general, one could claim that the story of reforming history education in both communities of Cyprus is no different from similar reform efforts in other countries, especially divided ones, in which school history understood and taught as heritage clashes with a new paradigm of history teaching grounded in historical methodologies , constructivist epistemology and critical thinking (for more details, see Makriyianni et al. 2011; Papadakis 2008; Psaltis et al. 2011). Yet, what is unique in this case, as is, of course, in each particular setting in which this clash is manifest, is how inclusions and exclusions are generated and enacted, strategically or less strategically, and with which consequences (see Klerides 2014).

Greek Cypriot Educational System

The latest reform effort in the Greek Cypriot educational system started in 2004 with the appointment by the government of an Educational Reform Committee to prepare a report on the reforms that needed to be undertaken in the Greek Cypriot educational system. The ‘manifesto’ that was produced, as the report was called, dealt with all school subjects and the need to initiate reforms at many levels. The main idea of the manifesto was the need for ideological re-orientation and restructuring of the educational system to adopt humanistic ideas rather than reproducing largely ‘Greek values’ and knowledge. With regard to history, the manifesto highlighted the values of promoting multiperspectivity and reconciliation and suggested the revision of history textbooks in accordance with new approaches of history teaching . Not surprisingly, the manifesto caused a variety of reactions that ranged from the support of its proposal, the avoidance of discussing ideological issues, up to its heavy criticism and rejection—mainly from conservative circles and the Greek Orthodox Church (see Makriyianni et al. 2011). The main issue whether history education should continue to promote the Greek national identity over a common Cypriot identity was lingering in public for several years and received a great coverage from media and politicians.

In 2008, the newly elected government (led by a leftist president) appointed a Scientific Committee to reform the curricula for the Greek Cypriot educational system. The Committee produced a framework promoting a democratic and humane school. In addition to this central Scientific Committee, special subject matter committees were appointed to produce their specific proposals for each school subject. The special committee for history education was consisted of five historian academics; no academic experts in history education were appointed in the committee. The decision was to include academics suggested by different political parties, while no history educators were included. Also, working groups of teachers were appointed to collaborate with academics in producing the new curriculum for each school subject. The approach of the history education academic committee focused on substantive knowledge and a single narrative approach, while pedagogically their approach was rather outdated. The final proposal ended promoting national identity and substantive understanding of history, while also including general references to historical thinking, multiperspectivity, and the importance of distinguishing between primary and secondary sources (Perikleous 2010). The proposal did not include aims regarding the development of historical thinking or the inclusion of sensitive and controversial issues for that matter.

While the working groups of teachers started producing new curricular and pedagogical materials in history education, the newly elected government in 2013 (led by a centre-to-right president) froze the process and appointed a new Scientific Committee to prepare a formative evaluation of the new curricula developed. With regard to history education, the evaluation report of this committee confirmed that there was a clash between two views: on the one hand, history teaching as heritage that leads to ethnocentrism; and on the other hand, history teaching that emphasizes multiperspectivity and critical thinking. The suggestion of the Committee was that the curriculum for history education should be revised, especially with regard to pedagogical issues, didactic approach, and the development of historical thinking. It was also suggested that there should be clear objectives and indicators regarding knowledge, skills and the development of critical thinking and evaluation of historical sources.

Various studies at the time of these reform efforts show a stark reality: how the ethnic division of Cyprus is rescaled down not only to official curricula and textbooks but also to classroom and school life through the creation of spaces that often dismiss the possibility of introducing approaches such as the teaching of sensitive and controversial issues (Zembylas and Kambani 2012) or they prevent openings for dangerous memories that challenge one-sided victimization narratives (e.g. Makriyianni et al. 2011; Perikleous 2010; Zembylas 2015; Zembylas et al. 2016). For example, even though teachers may acknowledge the benefits of approaches such as teaching controversial issues in history instruction, they may still feel strongly about the inappropriateness and non-feasibility of such approaches in the light of particular emotional, social and political circumstances. Thus, we need to remember that new paradigms or approaches such as ‘new history’ or the teaching of controversial issues that may encourage dangerous memories and facilitate conflict transformation take a different meaning in some settings over others and their application to these settings may not be as unproblematic as it may be argued by their supporters (Klerides 2014). Next, we show some of the developments in history teaching in the Turkish Cypriot educational system.

Turkish Cypriot Educational System

Similar to the Greek Cypriot educational system, the Turkish Cypriot educational system too sees history education ‘as a tool to create national subjects’ (Karahasan and Latif 2010, p. 23). Although this notion is still the dominant paradigm, the Turkish Cypriot experience shows that grass roots initiatives have played an important role in the ‘dynamics of change’ (Beyidoğlu Önen et al. 2010, pp. 117–122).

Although there has never been an attempt to revise history textbooks in the Turkish Cypriot community, towards the end of the 1990s and in the beginning of 2000s, the efforts for change came mostly from a grass roots movement. Especially after the banking crisis (Beyidoğlu Önen et al. 2010), towards the end of the 1990s, many Turkish Cypriots faced big economic challenges that led them to question the political status quo (Beyidoğlu Önen et al. 2010; Karahasan and Beyidoğlu, forthcoming). Electing Mehmet Ali Talat as the new leader in 2004 after the long-time presence of leader Rauf Denktash was a big change, because Denktash was the leader of Turkish Cypriots since the late 1970s; the change of administration was interpreted as dissatisfaction with the old regime that ruled for decades.

One of the first things that the new CTP (Republican Turkish Party) government, centre-left, did was to appoint a committee for revising Turkish Cypriot history textbooks, which were in use from 1974 till 2004. As a result of this initiative, the committee came up with new Cyprus history textbooks in a very short period of time. These textbooks were considered as more ‘progressive’, and they were positively included towards a ‘federal united Cyprus ’. Interestingly, the whole process of reform did not take place through a public consultation, but it was initiated from the government itself (Beyidoğlu Önen et al. 2010; Latif 2010; Papadakis 2008; Vural and Özuyanık 2008). The textbooks that were in use from 2004 till 2009 were grounded in the idea that ‘Cyprus is the homeland of Cypriots’, which was a departure from past textbooks. The textbooks in use from 1974 till 2004 depicted Turkish Cypriots as the ones who were rightful and victims, whereas Greek Cypriots were presented as bad and perpetrators (Beyidoğlu Önen et al. 2010).

The reform of history textbooks in 2004, however, created something unprecedented: it gave the opportunity or ‘legitimate claim’ to new administrations that every time a government changes, textbooks are subject to change too (Beyidoğlu Önen et al. 2010; Karahasan and Beyidoğlu, forthcoming). In other words, this initiative for change opened ‘Pandora’s Box’ for subsequent governments to change history textbooks whenever they come to power. That was the reason why one of the first things that UBP (National Unity Party), centre-right, did when it came to power in 2009 was to change the textbooks that were in use from 2004 till 2009. Only in three months time, the authorities produced new Cyprus history textbooks, which brought back the previous ethnocentric lens (Karahasan and Latif 2010, p. 28).

Pedagogically speaking, there was an important shift in the way textbooks were structured after 2004. Instead of following the predominant ‘banking model’ (Freire 2000), according to which the teacher knows everything and students know nothing, the textbooks of 2004 encouraged student participation, multiperspectivity and active learning. Similarly, the textbooks of 2009 were grounded in a student-centred approach; however, time limitations seemed to prevent teachers from using the books in the way the writers envisioned.

In general, the experience of the formal reform efforts in the Turkish Cypriot community shows once again that while some ‘progressive’ narratives were included, they were once again excluded as a result of political change. Thus, although in 2004 there was a wave towards a ‘federal united Cyprus’ (Beyidoğlu Önen et al. 2010; Latif 2010; Papadakis 2008; Vural and Özuyanık 2008), this approach was replaced with the previous ethnocentric dominant discourse in 2009 after UBP came to power. Similar to the Greek Cypriot experience, the Turkish Cypriot experience shows how history education has been used by political parties as a way to promote particular history narratives to its people. This experience also shows the tensions that (re)surface between ‘new history’ and heritage and consequences of these tensions in terms of providing openings or closures for dangerous memories in formal education .

Efforts at the Non-formal Level: The Role of Civil Society Organizations in History Teaching

As stated by Bilali (this volume), the role of civil society organizations is significant in order to create awareness in history education, especially in relation to the prospects of dangerous memories, because as non-formal education providers, NGOs can often touch on issues that formal education may not dare to do. Specifically, two main NGOs in Cyprus have had important contribution over the last decade or so in the creation of education spaces to talk about history and peace education in non-mainstream ways; these organizations are the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR ) and POST Research Institute (POST RI ). Both NGOs have been working on peace and reconciliation in Cyprus, especially since 2003: (a) to make people aware that the traumatic past is not something Cypriots should get trapped into, but the past can be dealt with productively; (b) to help people realize that ‘dangerous memories’ can constitute a positive way that people can move forward; and (c) to contribute to the creation of a new united Cyprus in which all Cypriots (Turkish Cypriots, Greek Cypriots, Maronites, Latins, Armenians and whoever lives in Cyprus) have educational opportunities that are based on human rights, democratic ethos and respect of differences.

AHDR, a bi-communal NGO, established in 2003, has been working on a wide range of projects and activities, including projects and activities, such as teacher training workshops and the creation of supplementary educational materials. In the past few years, AHDR published many supplementary materials for history teaching in Cyprus with an emphasis on multiperspectivity and empathy in history teaching. Some examples are the following: Thinking Historically about Missing Persons: A Guide For Teachers (Chapman et al. 2011); Learning to investigate the history of Cyprus through artefacts—Teacher’s Guide and Museum Activity booklet for Students (Argyrou et al. 2011); Introducing Oral History: When People’s Stories Become History (Fischer et al. 2011); Our Children, Our Games (Uludağ and Makriyianni 2011); The Ottoman Period in Cyprus : Learning to Explore Change, Continuity and Diversity (Samani et al. 2011); and A Look at Our Past (2011).

It should also be noted that AHDR’s publications, except Our Children, Our Games (Uludağ and Makriyianni 2011), which was written in Greek and in Turkish only, are always trilingual, considering the importance of reaching out all the different groups in Cypriot society and abroad. Besides publishing supplementary educational materials for teachers, AHDR also organizes conferences and cultural activities for peace and reconciliation in Cyprus at its premises, located in the Buffer Zone in Nicosia. This space is also known as the ‘Home for Cooperation’ (H4C), which has become a cultural centre, where one can get language, dancing classes as well as space for conferences and meetings. H4C is now becoming an intersection point for both communities in the buffer zone. Alongside the supplementary materials, AHDR also produced a ‘policy paper’ in education by arguing that ‘…the current system of education in Cyprus fails to promote the notion of living in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and multi-faith society’ (2013, p. i), and providing recommendations addressed to different stakeholders for transforming the current education systems on both sides of the divide.

POST RI, a Turkish Cypriot NGO based on the north side of the island, is another civil society organization with the aim of bringing positive change to education in Cyprus. Since its establishment in 2002, POST RI took part in different projects for unification of the island by using peace education as an approach. POST RI organizes film festivals, lectures and discussions, and undertakes research on history education. In 2004, POST RI implemented the first bi-communal project with AKTI (a Greek Cypriot environmental NGO) to explore the presence of nationalistic elements in school textbooks of the last year of primary school in both sides of the divide; the publication was titled Education for Peace. The success of this project led POST RI to a continuation of the project, titled Education for Peace II; however, this time the focus was only on the Turkish Cypriot side. Education for Peace II provided a comparative analysis of the history textbooks in secondary school that were in use from 1974 till 2004, including the revised textbooks developed when the Republican Turkish Party (CTP), centre-left party, came to power. The success of the Education for Peace II led POST RI to work extensively continuing the third and last leg of the project titled Education for Peace III, which analysed the textbooks in use at the high school level from 2004 to 2009, including some that are being used nowadays. Although the findings of the last project were discouraging in terms of the openings created for dangerous memories, the work of POST RI in general could be seen as providing significant understanding of the current situation and suggesting possibilities for encouraging the emergence of dangerous memories in peace education. POST RI’s works are not limited to peace education but also in other areas like geography education and gender issues in the field of education (e.g. Birey and Beyidoğlu Önen 2013).

Overall, the findings of POST RI regarding history education in the north show that Turkish Cypriot history education went through an ethnocentric version of history according to which Turkish Cypriots were the ones who suffered from Greek Cypriots (Beyidoglu Önen et al. 2010). However, according to POST RI’s (2010) study, this representation changed drastically with the revised textbooks in 2004 and promoted common social history, instead of a segregated version of ‘good-us’ versus ‘bad-them’. As noted in the previous section, this representation changed once again when the Nationalist Unity Party (UBP), centre-right, took power and revised the textbooks in 2009 (Karahasan and Latif 2010).

In general, one of the most important contributions of POST RI is that it shows precisely how textbook revision in Cyprus is a deeply politicized process. However, an equally important contribution is the sort of pedagogies that are identified to promote reconciliation and highlight dangerous memories . For example, POST RI’s publication Past Traumas: The Representation of History and Peace Education (Karahasan 2013) underlines the importance of dealing with traumatic past in productive ways and offers pedagogical ideas to deal with various educational challenges. This publication emphasizes that textbook revision is not the only or even the most important means of promoting peace and reconciliation, especially when political circumstances do not allow for such reforms. The way that history is taught might be argued to take priority over textbook reform, especially when such reform is felt to be too sensitive and thus best left until later (Davies 2016).

In summary, both AHDR and POST RI’s contributions are valuable in the creation of learning spaces in which past traumatic issues in Cyprus can be talked about constructively in ways that formal curricula, textbooks and pedagogical practices do not dare to do yet. The work that is being done by both of these civil society organizations shows how the intervention of NGOs provides important openings, both academically and personally for those who look for alternative ways of engaging with history teaching . Civil society organizations, then, can open up ways or prepare the ground for formal educational efforts in both educational systems to make more bold moves. To the extent that there is some ‘transference’ of productive learning spaces from non-formal to formal settings, it is expected that these openings could greatly enhance the processes of conflict transformation in Cyprus .

Conclusions and Implications

The examples provided in this chapter highlight two important aspects in relation to history teaching and the prospects of promoting dangerous memories to facilitate conflict transformation. First, the politics of memory and past trauma are unavoidably entangled with pedagogies, history textbooks and reform efforts. Students and teachers learn how to remember the past trauma and sustain negative emotions about the Other through everyday social and educational practices in formal education settings. Consequently, when the politics of memory and trauma are not somehow accounted for in educational reform efforts, they risk perpetuating the hegemonic psycho-social ethos. Taking into consideration the politics of memory and trauma is valuable in making strategic decisions about how history teaching could realistically enhance the ability to actively promote conflict transformation.

The second important aspect in history teaching is that reconciliation pedagogies might often be suppressed in formal educational settings, while there may be more openings in non-formal ones. These differences of approaches reflect the political circumstances and the larger ideologies and hegemonies that lie behind them. Again, these differences as well as the political circumstances under which efforts are undertaken have to be strategically accounted for, if stakeholders want to create relevant openings that highlight dangerous memories and promote reconciliation pedagogies.

We would like to end the chapter by paying particular attention to the link between dangerous memories and reconciliation pedagogies and its importance for conflict transformation. Generally speaking, reconciliatory pedagogical practices are the pedagogies which foreground the need to elaborate how we might learn to live together with ever-increasing emotional and political complexities ‘by focusing attention on aspects of pedagogy such as dialogue, the ‘discourse of possibility’, remembering and witnessing, and the affective dimensions of difficult, contested knowledge’ (Hattam et al. 2012, p. 6). A reconciliatory ethos in history curriculum and teaching would help students from conflict-affected communities become aware, both at an emotional level and at an intellectual level, of the shared meanings, visions and ethical interdependence that can constrain as well as promote mutual understanding and communal interaction.

The examples shared in this chapter show the challenges that exist at different levels for highlighting dangerous memories that can be pedagogically approached to promote reconciliation, especially at the formal education level. Yet, the development of reconciliation pedagogies , even at the non-formal level through the work of NGOs is equally important to other reform initiatives, all of which must be designed contextually and strategically. In this regard, reconciliation pedagogies developed by civil society organizations can actively facilitate conflict transformation by helping to gradually dismantle the system of entrenched myths and antagonistic or one-sided trauma narratives that perpetuate division between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

In general, reconciliation pedagogies may offer two important things. First, they provide a space where educators and students can question common sense assumptions and the politics of hegemonic trauma narratives, thus creating spaces for dangerous memories to arise. Second, these pedagogies also provide opportunities for traumatized students to work through feelings of trauma and rehumanize the Other (McKnight 2004). Through dealing with the emotional challenges of trauma, teachers and students from each community may begin to empathize with the Other (McCully 2010); thus, by becoming sensitive to the emotions of trauma and mourning, teachers and students can begin to confront the ideological and political aspects of chosen traumas (Volkan 1979, 1988, 1997) within each community.

Social psychological pillars such as rehumanization, empathy and criticality through education are invaluable tools and mechanisms to promote conflict transformation. While these suggestions do offer some important approaches to facilitate sustainable peace and reconciliation, history teaching and education alone cannot do much for conflict transformation; both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots must be actively engaged through collective action and solidarity to address the structural limitations mentioned earlier at the widest social and political level.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Open University of CyprusNicosiaCyprus
  2. 2.Near East UniversityNicosiaCyprus

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