Accepted paper:

Complaining to "the culture" or to "the state"? Justice and conflict resolution from below in Timor-Leste


Daniel Simiao (Universidade de Brasília)

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a Timorese village, the paper suggests that forms of justice usually taken as "customary" are, in some ways, locally perceived as part of the state system, challenging national policies towards the acknowledgment of local forms of conflict resolution.

Paper long abstract:

The paper explores the relation between the formal justice system and local forms of conflict resolution from the perspective of the locals of an East Timorese village. We argue that forms of justice taken, from the perspective of the state, as "traditional" or "customary" are locally perceived as part of the state system. Local authorities, such as the suku chief, play an important role in mobilizing signs of statecraft, transferring at the same time the legitimacy of local forms of mediation to the state and reinforcing state structures into the village level. However, the frontiers between "culture" and "state" are yet an issue to the ongoing reform of the judicial and legal system, which deals with different perspectives on how to cope with this two imagetic discourse fields in the building of a national justice system.

panel P28
The parasitical interplay of state formation: governance and dynamics of power among local, national and global institutions in Timor-Leste