CAARI at 40: I first came to CAARI…

This post is the first in a series celebrating CAARI’s 40th anniversary in which members of the global CAARI community reflect back on their experiences at the Institute and what it meant to them personally and professional.

From Annemarie Weyl Carr:

I first came to CAARI in the summer of 1990 with a month-long stipend from the Cyprus Research Centre. With expectations formed by a summer at the American Academy in Rome, I was dismayed to find myself deposited in front of a dusty apartment block on King Paul Street. But within minutes, elegant, articulate Stuart Swiny was welcoming me. “You’ll want to see the library,” he said. And section by section, he explained its holdings—the journals, archaeological reports, the publications of the Swedish expeditions, the site-specific sections, those on history both past and current, sections on art, and whole shelves of travelers’ reports. Never had I seen a collection of such magnitude devoted to Cyprus, or heard it introduced with such passionate conversancy. My skepticism evaporated. This was real. One could do serious work here.

Though others must have come and gone, Ken Schaar and Michael Given resided at CAARI throughout the weeks I was there, and we shared many meals and late-night discussions. Both were archaeologists of the distant past, but were volunteering on a bicommunal project on the architecture of Nicosia. Their minds were afire with the intensity of Cyprus’ modern history, and the resonances of its issues in past eras. This was new to me: I had come as a Byzantinist; slowly the question of Byzantium within Cyprus’ own culture opened out before me. Ken introduced me to the northern perspective. With precisely the same artifactual evidence, the same earth and sky, two diametrically different versions of history unfolded before me, one north of the Green Line and the other south of it. History was in this sense intensely alive: shifting, volatile, even dangerous. Encountering this was transformative for me, turning me from a Byzantinist to a Cyprologist. My understanding was significantly deepened by many meetings with historian Costas Kyrris, insatiable intellectual omnivore and passionate advocate of Cyprus’ cultural diversity. But it was the long discussions with Ken and Michael on nights too hot to sleep that allowed me to chew over and slowly digest the domains of discovery that were unfolding before me. And there were all those books to feed the process.

I have almost worn out George Georghallides, Director of the Cyprus Research Centre, with my thanks for that summer stipend. But it was at CAARI that the experiences were hashed over, talked out, and consolidated. This is exactly what I hope CAARI can keep offering its residents: ardent conversations with researchers in other periods, other disciplines, other fields—conversations that open perspectives far beyond one’s own project, and that thus begin to reveal the place of one’s own research within the dense fabric of Cyprus’ long, compelling story.

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