Accepted paper:

Who owns the dead? The governance of dead bodies in independent Timor-Leste

Author:

Lia Kent (ANU)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the governance of dead bodies in Timor-Leste. It shows that what counts as a 'proper' form of honouring those who died during the Indonesian occupation is increasingly determined through complex negotiations between customary and familial requirements and state demands.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the governance of dead bodies in independent Timor-Leste. Specifically, it examines how the state is constructing, and exerting ownership of, 'martyrs' by establishing district-based heroes' cemeteries and ossuaries and organising state-sponsored reburial rituals. What counts as a 'proper' form of honouring those who died during the Indonesian occupation is increasingly determined through complex negotiations between customary and familial requirements and state demands. I argue that the outcomes of these negotiations around East Timorese mortuary rituals establish boundaries around national 'belonging' and are part of the process of defining the scope and power of a new state. The ownership of the dead is a lens through which to view peoples' everyday encounters with, and responses to, performances of state legitimacy.

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