Urban Rapprochement Tactics: Stitching Divided Nicosia
This written thesis investigates the capacity of shared spaces to instigate rapprochement between adversarial communities in ethno-nationally induced urban conflicts through an in-depth analysis of the divided city of Nicosia. A much-debated question is whether sharing space has beneficial influence in interethnic relations. One approach posits that any level of contact between adversaries, even the merely visual, establishes familiarity with the other (Pullan, 2012). Another approach argues that coexistence or cohabitation in a public space cannot be equated with meaningful interaction and interethnic understanding outright (Amin, 2006). These two positions can be linked back to two interpretations of Kant’s ideas on cosmopolitanism. Arendt (1958) advocates for anonymity as a prerequisite for interethnic understanding while Habermas (1962) for impersonality as an indispensable starting point to mutual understanding.
In Cyprus, the communities have been separated for almost thirty years until the checkpoints opened. Research evidence suggests that even after the opening of the checkpoints, a third of the population has never crossed to the other side (Psaltis). The Buffer Zone has been fertile ground in cross-boundary interaction through spatial practices and urban strategies, however little is known about the impact of these particular spaces in interethnic relations. The written thesis builds on the aforementioned theoretical framework to investigate the significance of the Buffer Zone as a space of exception, the role of the various actors involved in the making of these urban environments as well as whether the established contact has been conducive towards the amelioration of interethnic relations. The design project will propose a comprehensive urban strategy to counteract the prejudice against crossing and facilitate meaningful interactions between people that have been reluctant to cross.