1st Edition

Nation-Building and National Identity in Timor-Leste

By Michael Leach Copyright 2017
    276 Pages
    by Routledge

    276 Pages
    by Routledge

    Timor-Leste’s long journey to nationhood spans 450 years of colonial rule by Portugal, a short-lived independence in 1975, and a 24-year occupation by Indonesia. This book examines the history of nation-building and national identity in Timor-Leste, and the evolution of a collective identity through two consecutive colonial occupations, and into the post-independence era. It charts the evolution of the idea of an East Timorese nation: its origins, its sources, and its competitors in traditional understandings of political community, and the distinct colonial visions imposed by Portugal or Indonesia. The author analyses the evolution of ideas of collective identity under the long era of Portuguese colonial rule, and through the 24-year struggle for independence from Indonesia from 1975 to 1999. Reflecting the contested history of the territory, these include successive attempts to define its members as colonial subjects in a wider ‘pluri-racial’ Portuguese empire, as citizens in an ‘integrated’ province of the Republic of Indonesia – and, of course, as a nation that demanded its right to self-determination. Finally, the host of nation-building tensions and fault lines that emerged after the restoration of independence in 2002 are discussed.

    Examining the history of debates and conflict over national identity, national history, cultural heritage, language policy, and relationships between distinct regions, generations, and language groups, this book will be of interest to academics in the fields of Asian studies, nationalism studies, and international and community development.

    1. Introduction

    2. Indigenous Societies and the Early Colonial Era

    3. The Intensification of Colonial Power

    4. Decolonisation and the Rise of East Timorese Political Parties 1974-5

    5. Forced Integration and the Reorganisation of the Nation 1976-1989

    6. The 1990s: The CNRT and the Clandestine Resistance

    7. Untaet and the Constitutional Assembly 1999-2002

    8. Nation-Building Challenges After Independence

    9. The Political-Military Crisis: East and West

    10. 2007-2012: Divisions in the Elite

    11. 2013-2015: The Return of National Unity 

    12. Conclusion


    Michael Leach is Professor in Politics at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia. He has researched and published widely on the politics and history of Timor-Leste, and is a co-founder of the Timor-Leste Studies Association.

    This is an outstanding contribution to the literature on Timor-Leste nationalism and nationalism in general, and is a veritable tour de force in the study of nation-building in post-colonial nation-states. The results of the author’s statistical work combine with interviews carried out and a close study of the literature to produce an authoritative work that opens new vistas of understanding for political scientists, historians, and anthropologists, as well as providing policy-makers with a guide to the past, present, and future of Timor-Leste. It is a splendid book, which serves as a point of departure for all who wish to refine their ideas about how nation-states emerge.

    David Hicks, Professor of Anthropology, Stony Brook University, USA

    Leach’s 500-year sweep of history deserves an audience far beyond the community of scholars of East Timor. He shows that East Timorese nationalism has diverged in distinctive ways from Eurocentric models which dominate nationalism studies. He is judicious in his consideration of evidence, whilst retaining a sympathy for his subject.

    Clinton Fernandes, Professor of International and Political Studies, University of New South Wales, Australia