Accepted Paper:

Big Shoes to Fill: Young Adults' Future Narrative and its Intergenerational Entanglements in Timor-Leste  

Author:

Sara ten Brinke (Utrecht University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I explore how the past plays a crucial role in young adults' narratives about their future engagement as citizens of Timor-Leste. I will show how the romanticised view on the past independence struggle profoundly impacts intergenerational relations and young adults' positionality.

Paper long abstract:

Timor-Leste (East Timor) became the first nation-state of the twenty-first century upon its independence in 2002, after twenty-four years of Indonesian occupation and a few centuries of Portuguese colonialism. Today, young adults (18-30 years old) are told time and again that the future of the nation rests on their shoulders. They are also told that they should never forget the sacrifices that the previous generations made, for them and for an independent Timor-Leste.

In this paper I will explore how stories about the past resistance against foreign oppression are used to create an image of the perfect East Timorese citizen as one willing to sacrifice everything for the freedom of his/her country. I will narrate the stories about political resistance that are transmitted to the post-conflict generation both in personal relations and in national political discourse. By scrutinizing the moral dimensions given to the 'worthy' Timorese citizenship of the generations of freedom fighters, I will explore how young adults construct a narrative of their future engagement that is based on the concepts of struggle, sacrifice and selflessness. In this narrative, the imperative to develop Timor-Leste becomes for the new generation what its independence was for the previous. Hence, I will theorize how young adults give meaning to their future role and how this is rooted in a romanticized view on the past engagements of their senior co-citizens. Accordingly, I will contemplate how the past and its memories shape intergenerational relations and young adults' positionality in Timor-Leste's present and future.

Panel P043
Temporalities of the past: moments, memories, and futures in the making