Theories of multicultural political citizenship are increasingly used in the construction, implementation and evaluation of policies aimed at resolving tensions between ethnic and cultural groups. Such policies aim to remedy inequalities between multicultural groups and to promote equality of opportunity amongst members of different groups. In my PhD project, I seek to critically evaluate the applicability of different multicultural theories to the case of Cyprus, in order to examine whether they can provide solutions to the multicultural challenges that arise in post-conflict situations.
Cyprus has been chosen as the case study, because it is an excellent example of the challenges that multicultural theories need to address. The religious, colonial and ethnic influences upon the local identities in the island are often contradictory and overlapping, thus creating a complex set of problems that multicultural theories like the ones advanced by Kymlicka, Kukathas, Barry, Young and Taylor need to overcome.
The main question of my PhD research is thus, whether existing theories of multicultural citizenship (MC) are able to address the multicultural challenges of complex political situations, such as Cyprus, or whether they need to be revised in order to cope with such situations. In addressing this question, I will examine the main factors that distinguish the case of Cyprus from standard examples of multicultural conflict that characterise recent influential theories of MC; and use these factors as a test of the real-world applicability of MC. The main factors to be analysed are: (i) the monocultural nationalist ideology that underpins the two communities; (ii) the role of religion and education in both communities that affects the cultural and ethnic loyalties; and (iii) the inflow of immigrants that creates additional challenges.
The case of Cyprus is useful in extracting three generalisable conclusions—firstly, the division of society into societal cultures, especially national minorities, should not be accepted a priori; secondly, ethnicity should not be the defining identity marker of national groups; and thirdly, cultural identity, although a critical source of self-realisation, should not be treated as the utmost source of identity.
This research project is innovative and important on a number of levels. Firstly, it has a strongly interdisciplinary focus in contrast with much of the existing literature on MC and Cyprus, which analyses the above three factors in isolation of each other. By contrast, the research, by examining dominant theories of multicultural citizenship and their ability to resolve the multidimensional problems that exist in Cyprus, brings together insights from normative political theory, sociology, international relations, educational theory and modern history in order to clarify the construction of Cypriot identities. Finally, the examination of the multicultural challenges in Cyprus will provide an important insight on how to resolve problems in other conflict-driven cases.