[TimorLesteStudies] Paper: "Remaking a World Beyond State Demarcation" Emotion, Violence and Memory in Post-Conflict Oecussi, East Timor

Bu Wilson bu.wilson at anu.edu.au
Tue Nov 27 00:07:18 EST 2012

Victoria Kumala Sakti, 2012. "Remaking a World Beyond State Demarcation" Emotion, Violence and Memory in Post-Conflict Oecussi, East Timor. Conflict, Memory and Reconciliation: Bridging Past, Present and Future, January 10-13, Kigali, Rwanda


How do people in conflict-torn societies process, communicate, and remember past experiences of violence and how are emotions articulated and experienced in these processes? The traumatic effects of war and political violence have been widely documented and continue to be researched to deepen our understanding on how people deal with aftermath of violence. It is assumed that the experience and memory of conflict/war-related violence – independent from its specific socio-political causes – evokes emotions such as grief, anger, pain, fear, shame and guilt within the actors involved. This research is interested in the various cultural codifications of these emotional dimensions and how they are experienced and expressed in the process of “remaking the world” in the every day lives of survivors (Das and Kleinman, 2007). This paper discusses the findings of 12 months ethnographic study carried out in the District of Oecussi, East Timor. Since achieving independence from the bloody 24 years of Indonesian occupation, the people of Oecussi highlands have gone a long way to re-establish stability in their region. Through reconciliation efforts assisted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR) and some international NGOs, rebuilding relationships within a once divided community was enabled. Nevertheless, a large number of the community continue to live in the bordering West Timor, Indonesia – some of which were involved in the 1999 atrocities and avoid returning to East Timor in the fear of punishment. Based on a multi-sited ethnography, researching in both sides of the divided community – in West Timor and Oecussi highlands – this paper tries to demonstrate how in the re-making of every day lives, the bond between the two communities now separated by a formal state demarcation is still included. In a society where traditional beliefs and appeasing ancestors are still strongly held, rituals, ceremonies and local commemorations continues the process of rebuilding relationships as well as overcoming the shared past experiences of violence. Understanding the role of emotion in this process and how it is influenced by existing politics of memory sheds light to what is actually at stake for the people affected by past violent conflict.

Dr Bu V.E. Wilson

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