[TimorLesteStudies] Michael Leach: Difficult memories: The independence struggle as cultural heritage in East Timor

Bu V.E. Wilson bu.wilson at anu.edu.au
Thu Nov 27 09:53:29 EST 2008

Michael  Leach. 2008. 'Difficult  memories: The  independence struggle as cultural heritage in East Timor'. In W. Logan and K.  Reeves (eds). Places  of Pain and Shame: Dealing with 'Difficult Heritage'.  London: Routledge, pp. 144-161.          Chapter Abstract  This  chapter examines the way difficult sites of imprisonment, trauma and resistance  are being remembered in East Timor. It discusses the challenging contexts of  cultural heritage management in East Timor, and surveys colonial and  post-colonial ‘layers’ of the cultural heritage landscape, examining their  competing visions of East Timorese identity. It then focuses on East Timorese  nationalist conservation of difficult sites in the struggle for independence,  including key jails and interrogation centres, massacre sites, and recent  monuments to the armed resistance movement Falintil. With limited resources,  East Timor has had notable success in the conservation of key sites, and  memories of the liberation struggle, at both the national and the local levels.  Nonetheless, it is argued that the cultural heritage landscape reflects a major  ‘fault line’ in post-independence politics, in that the contribution of younger  East Timorese nationalists in the struggle for independence remains relatively  neglected.   Chapter  author details: mleach at swin.edu.au   About  the book http://www.routledge.com/books/Places-of-Pain-and-Shame-isbn9780415454506   Places  of Pain and Shame is a cross-cultural study of sites that represent painful  and/or shameful episodes in a national or local community’s history, and the  ways that government agencies, heritage professionals and the communities  themselves seek to remember, commemorate and conserve these cases – or,  conversely, choose to forget them.   
Such episodes and locations include: massacre and genocide sites, places  related to prisoners of war, civil and political prisons, and places of  ‘benevolent’ internment such as leper colonies and lunatic asylums. These sites  bring shame upon us now for the cruelty and futility of the events that occurred  within them and the ideologies they represented. They are however increasingly  being regarded as ‘heritage sites’, a far cry from the view of heritage that  prevailed a generation ago when we were almost entirely concerned with  protecting the great and beautiful creations of the past, reflections of the  creative genius of humanity rather than the reverse – the destructive and cruel  side of history.
Why has this shift occurred, and what implications does it have for  professionals practicing in the heritage field? In what ways is this a  ‘difficult’ heritage to deal with? This volume brings together academics and  practitioners to explore these questions, covering not only some of the  practical matters, but also the theoretical and conceptual issues, and uses case  studies of historic places, museums and memorials from around the globe,  including the United States, Northern Ireland, Poland, South Africa, China,  Japan, Taiwan, Cambodia, Indonesia, East Timor and Australia.  

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