Accepted Paper:

Performing culture in the politics of space: an analysis of development discourse in post-Independence Timor-Leste  


Tomoaki Kanamaru (Indonesia Research Institute Japan)

Paper short abstract:

In post-independence Timor-Leste, an emergence of local elites has been accompanied by not only a call for local dispute mediation but also compensation schemes for veterans. A case analysis for this thesis may suggest an interdependent relationship between territorialisation and ethno-territorialisation.

Paper long abstract:

In post-independence Timor-Leste, the new-born state, quite understandably, has been expected to serve as an engine of development. However, under the circumstances characterised by complex legal pluralism, both territorialisation and ethno-territorialisation seem to be taking place simultaneously. Indeed, these two, seemingly contradictory, processes has been relying inherently on one another. On the one hand, international aid organisations have emphasised the importance to incorporate traditional mechanisms of dispute mediation into formal justice system. Since formal justice system is simply unavailable for the majority of rural dwellers, it seems to be fairly reasonable to combine customary mediations with still immature formal legal institutions. On the other hand, this situation may risk being deployed as a tool of forum-shopping by local elites to pursue personal gains. The issue of how to compensate veterans who fought for independence has further complicated the situation. An emphasis on traditional leadership in customary dispute mediation constitutes an opportunity for local elites to forge their power basis through a series of state-led programs, an important element of which has been compensation for veterans. At the same time, the very combination of customary mediation with formal justice may fundamentally undermine the legitimacy of traditional leaders. These two different mechanisms, relying on one another, should have been observed in post-conflict state-formation in Timor-Leste. This thesis will be illustrated through a case study of western mountainous district where coffee production has been economically salient.

Panel P028
Development, displacement and poverty in the context of social justice