Accepted paper:

Ambivalent 'Indigeneities' in an Independent Timor-Leste

Authors:

Lisa Palmer (University of Melbourne)
Andrew McWilliam (Western Sydney University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the extent to which Timor's independence trajectory has included the active involvement of self-identifying indigenous Timorese traditions, practices and priorities in the governance of the new nation. We argue that indigeneity is an inherently ambivalent concept in Timor-Leste.

Paper long abstract:

Successfully achieving nationhood under the banner of what Anderson (2003) terms, 'aggregated nativeness', Timor-Leste is South-East Asia's newest nation. Yet as Anderson observes, 'for the culture of nationalism…survival cannot be enough' (2003: 184) and as with all other nationalisms, Timor-Leste's nation-making agenda is now fully engaged in the search for inclusive futures for its citizens. In this paper we examine the extent to which Timor's independence trajectory has included the active involvement of self-identifying indigenous Timorese traditions, practices and priorities in the governance of the new nation. By theorizing the shifting nature of Timorese 'indigenous' ontologies, we argue that indigeneity is an inherently ambivalent concept in Timor-Leste, both as a founding principle and a lived reality sidelined in the pursuit of more cosmopolitan and technocratic futures. We argue that the term 'indigenous' can be used interchangeably with that of the 'customary' in Timor Leste, but it is not (yet) a term mobilised as a vehicle for the politics of recognition at either national or local levels of civil society.

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