Oral Histories in
Cypriot Classrooms:
Memory, Reconciliation and Divided Communities

Panel: Remembering Social Change: Education, Collaboration, Transformation
Oral History Association annual meeting
Tampa Florida  USA
16 October 2015


John W. Higgins, Department of Media Studies, University of San Francisco USA; 
US Fulbright Scholar, Cyprus, 2010. 
Email: higginsJ [at] usfca.edu     Twitter: @ProfHigginsJ
Facebook: Prof Higgins     LinkedIn: John W. Higgins
MediaProf website: www.mediaprof.org


Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island of Cyprus remain separated after more than four decades; UN Peacekeepers have been in Cyprus for nearly fifty years. Cypriot media, government, and institutions typically reflect political positions hardened over decades of impasse, these attitudes are often shared by large segments of the ethnic communities. This highly politicized environment constitutes part of the fabric of daily life in Cyprus.

University students in Cyprus live in an environment of politically charged media and culture that often promotes negative perspectives of “the other” and discourages collaborative efforts or peace and reconciliation. Efforts against these hegemonic forces include civil society projects involving community-based media and people-to-people communication projects, including oral histories.

This paper explores oral history and reflexivity projects in university classrooms in the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities in 1996 and 2010, and published on the website, Cypriot Voices
( http://www.cyvoices.org ). The experiences are framed within Engaged Pedagogy, a synthesis of critical and feminist pedagogies stemming from the work of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, which encourages involvement in the world beyond classroom walls for the purposes of personal and social transformation. Dervin’s Sense-Making Methodology provides a means of implementing the principles of Engaged Pedagogy.

The experiences indicate that oral histories and related self-reflexive practices served to both validate and challenge personal and cultural experiences through the creation of a student base of ‘legitimate knowledge.’ Reflexive responses by students in Cyprus to their community interviews in 1996 and 2010 suggest that some participants experienced a transformative shift in perspective toward history, politics, and culture. Self-reflexivity is explored as a life-long method of promoting personal and social change.

This paper is a version of the author’s chapter in Challenging History: Oral History Work in Cyprus (Briel 2014).

Keywords: oral history, reflection, reflexivity, empowerment, transformation, Cyprus, Paulo Freire, Dervin’s sense-making methodology, S-MM, critical pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, radical pedagogy, engaged pedagogy 



Higgins: Cyprus-Peacebuilding-Community Media-Digital Storytelling GMJ-ME_Spring_2011  (pdf)
"Peace-building Through Listening, Digital Storytelling, and Community Media in Cyprus."  Article describing Fall 2010 Fulbright project using community media and digital storytelling for peace-building in Cyprus. Global Media Journal, Mediterranean Edition 6.1: Spring 2011

Higgins: Paulo Freire  (pdf)
“Paulo Freire and Social Transformation."  Peace Review 9.4: 571-577. 1997.

Course Materials:

Student oral histories and personal digital stories: 

Cypriot Voices:  Oral Histories 1996 (EMU) & 2010 (U of Cy)

Personal Digital Stories:

Nicosia, Cyprus Digital Stories 
(Uof Cy, NEU, EUC  2008, 2010, 2011, 2013)

University of San Francisco  Digital Stories 2011-2015

Menlo College, Atherton CA  Digital Stories 2005-2010

University of San Francisco  Comic Books/Graphic Novels 2015
(using Comic Life by Plasq)



John W. Higgins is a communication consultant in San Francisco and adjunct professor of Media Studies at the University of San Francisco. He has been involved in community-based radio and video for over three decades, including service as President of San Francisco public access cable TV’s board of directors. John has taught and developed communication facilities and programs of study at colleges and universities in the U.S. and overseas.

In 2010, he was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Cyprus, using digital storytelling, oral history, self-reflexivity and community-based media for peace-building between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. He continues peace-building and training projects with groups across the island, involving the US Embassy, the Cyprus Fulbright Commission, United Nations Development Programme, and the Cyprus Community Media Centre.

Higgins holds a Ph.D. in Communication from Ohio State University; his research interests include community-based, grassroots, “alternative” media; media production; communication technologies; critical pedagogies; digital storytelling and oral history as art and social science. John’s background includes thirty years as a professional puppeteer and street performer.

Additional information: Higgins


top of page

MediaProf: Home

updated 15 October 2015