[TimorLesteStudies] Meitzner Yoder - fantastical schemes, aspirational distractions and high modern mega-events in the Oecusse enclave

Simon P J Batterbury simonpjb at unimelb.edu.au
Mon Oct 26 16:50:45 AEDT 2015

Laura S. Meitzner Yoder. 2015. The development eraser: fantastical schemes, aspirational distractions and high modern mega-events in the Oecusse enclave, Timor-Leste. Journal of Political Ecology 22: 299-321.

download:  http://jpe.library.arizona.edu/volume_22/Yoder2015.pdf


The array of challenges to durably improving rural peoples' lives in remote regions is so daunting that it can

be tempting to erase what is there, and to seek a blank slate. This tension is being played out in the Oecusse-Ambeno

enclave of Timor-Leste, a region long familiar with geographic and political isolation. Residents

now encounter a new iteration of their unique status: rapid declaration of their region as a special economic

zone (ZEESM), with a new regional governance structure and an appointed leadership. The advent of this

new zone is meant to catapult Oecusse from its current state of chronic infrastructure and basic development

challenges to a booming economic center and a fount of national income in short order. Early emphasis is

placed on rapid, major coastal infrastructure construction deemed necessary for the November 2015

commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Portuguese arrival, with the hallmarks associated with high

modernism and mega-event preparation worldwide: spatial re-ordering and regulation; a strong orientation to

external inputs, resources, and services; and centralized control of rapid infrastructure change. This article

investigates the ideological underpinnings of these plans, and explores the irony of how the proposals and

their governance arrangement are a disjuncture with Oecusse as a historically important place. It concludes

with observations on this project's place in the national development context, and the likely costs and impacts

of development for the Oecusse population. Risks include further political and economic marginalization of

the mountain-dwelling and rural population, local residents' loss of productive agricultural land and access to

water, reduced protection through administrative exclusion from national political structures, and the

opportunity costs of misdevelopment's aspirational distractions.

Dr. Simon Batterbury

Associate Professor| School of Geography | 221 Bouverie St  (rm L2.33) | University of Melbourne, 3010 VIC, Australia.   +61 (0)3 8344 9319  simonpjb @ unimelb.edu.au | http://www.simonbatterbury.net<http://www.simonbatterbury.net/>

Visiting Reseach Fellow<http://www.cosmopolis.be/news-event/2015-visiting-fellows-brussels-centre-urban-studies>, | Brussels Centre for Urban Studies<http://research.vub.ac.be/urban> | Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium. http://bikeworkshopsresearch.wordpress.com

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