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The unruly dead: spirits, memory and state formation in Timor-Leste


Lia Kent


Seminar Room 1.04, Coombs Extension Building (8), Fellows Road, ANU


Tuesday, 10 May, 2022 - 12:30 to 13:30

This presentation explores local practices of remembering the violent Indonesian occupation of East Timor (1974-1999). Reflecting on findings from ethnographic research across 2015-19, Lia Kent examines how new forms of vernacular memory-work are emerging as East Timorese citizens negotiate the secular rationalities of post-conflict state-building, the international discourses of human rights and forensic humanitarianism and a local ethics of care for the dead.

Propelling this negotiation are the demands of restless and unhappy spirits for proper burial and care. Lia argues that vernacular memory-work is creating new spaces of memory, new affective communities and new forms of political action that help remake the social and political order. This is a process in which the dead are unruly participants and political agents.

Lia’s findings have implications for analyses of the politics of memory, post-conflict recovery and state formation beyond Timor-Leste. They provide insight into the interplay between local memory practices and wider processes of state formation and, crucially, highlight the need for more attention to the affective power and agential dimensions of the dead.

About the Speaker

Lia Kent is a Senior Fellow and ARC Future Fellow in the School of Regulation and Global Governance at the Australian National University. She has conducted long term research in Timor-Leste on the themes of post-conflict peacebuilding, state formation, transitional justice, memory, and the dead.

COVID protocols

  • Please do not attend this event if you feel unwell, are awaiting the results of a test or are required to self-isolate/quarantine. The ANU’s COVID Safety advice can be accessed here.
  • The ANU will continue to require that masks be worn indoors for the foreseeable future, except when eating or drinking.
  • Attendees are encouraged to use hand sanitiser and the Check in CBR app at the entrance to the building.
  • Please maintain good social hygiene by staying 1.5m apart from others and coughing/sneezing into elbows.

This seminar presentation will be in-person only.

Image credit: Image of Monument President Nicolau Lobato, Dili airport. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons by Gabinete Primeiru-Ministru: S.Exa. Taur Matan Ruak.





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