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Exile and Return Among the East Timorese

Exile and Return Among the East Timorese

Amanda Wise
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Exile and Return Among the East Timorese
    Book Description:

    East Timor, the world's newest nation, finally gained its independence in 2002, following half a millennium of Portuguese rule and 24 years of Indonesian occupation. That occupation produced a refugee diaspora spread between Portugal and Australia that has been integral in advancing East Timor's cause abroad. Because East Timorese in the diaspora identified strongly as exiles and invested so much in pursuing East Timor's independence, the homeland's liberation has complicated the very basis on which many have "imagined" themselves since fleeing to Australia.Wise interrogates the space after exile for members of the East Timorese diaspora in Australia, in dialogue with key debates on diasporic identities within cultural studies, contemporary anthropology, and cultural geography. Drawing on innovative ethnographic research,Exile and Return Among the East Timoreseexplores questions of shifting identity and home, trauma and embodiment, belonging and return among the East Timorese abroad at this critical juncture in their lives. The book asks what forms of cultural identity emerge among politically active refugee diasporas, what happens to such groups when the dream of homeland is fulfilled, and how they renegotiate a sense of home after exile.The lived experience of Timorese in Australia and former refugees who have returned to East Timor is brought to life through their eloquent and often moving firsthand narratives, which the author has used liberally throughout the book, vividly presenting them alongside images and analysis of their role in the political struggle.Providing unique insights into cultural identities in the transition from exile to diaspora in a post-refugee group,Exile and Return Among the East Timoreseis essential reading for anyone interested in questions of home and identity among diasporic, transnational, and refugee communities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0392-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[vii])
  3. [Map]
    (pp. [viii]-[viii])
  4. Introduction: “We can’t hang Xanana there!” On the Politics of Representing Community
    (pp. 1-17)

    It is often said that East Timor’s President Xanana Gusmão, former guerrilla fighter and national hero, is the Nelson Mandela of Southeast Asia. A romantic, saint-like figure, he became an icon for East Timor’s cause, appearing on posters and T-shirts in his beret, reminiscent of the famous image of Ché Guevara. Every solidarity supporter had his picture on their wall, and East Timorese children graffti his likeness together with messages of resistance. Described as “poet, resistance fighter and peace maker,” Xanana has become a hero for our times. What a surprise, then, to find myself in a local museum in...

  5. Chapter 1 East Timor: A History of the Present
    (pp. 18-40)

    On 30 August 1999, the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Indonesia. This at once joyful and tragic founding moment marked the return of the long awaited homeland for thousands of East Timorese exiles abroad.

    For the East Timorese refugee diaspora, the imagining of East Timor as a nation is central to their imagining of self in exile. The weight of this tiny new nation’s violent past is so great, and inscribes such pain, that for many East Timorese in exile, maintaining a sense of national identity has become an act of personal and collective...

  6. Chapter 2 Leaving the Crocodile: The East Timorese Community in Sydney
    (pp. 41-60)

    From 1975 to 1999, many East Timorese refugees came to Australia because of its proximity and the existence of a large East Timorese community who were able to offer a much needed support network. The first East Timorese to arrive in Australia were fleeing the civil war between UDT and FRETILIN. The invasion of East Timor by Indonesia on 7 December 1975 forced many more East Timorese to refugees their homeland, and they continued to come for the next twenty-four years. East Timorese refugees came to Australia in several waves, beginning with those who fled the civil war and ending...

  7. Chapter 3 Nation, Transnation, Diaspora: Locating East Timorese Long Distance Nationalism
    (pp. 61-88)

    At first sight, Fabiola looks unremarkable. She is an ordinary young woman who lives in a small apartment in suburban Fair field and works as a clerk in a retirement home. We have shared many everyday jokes, laughed together about her latest Australian boyfriend, and chatted in the usual way about “everyday” things. Her small stature and amiable character belie her extraordinary personal history. The contents of the bookshelf in her small study room are the only hint of her bigger story: a myriad independence campaign texts in English, Portuguese, Bahasa Indonesia, and even Japanese.

    Fabiola, thirty-five, came to Australia...

  8. Chapter 4 Embodying Exile: Embodied Memory and the Role of Trauma, Affect, Politics, and Religion in the Formation of Identities in Exile
    (pp. 89-122)

    Each of these opening quotations emphasizes the significance of shared pain and affect in the formation of collective identities, and, as Xaviér’s story shows, these also have a very real impact on individual lives. Xaviér is an East Timorese man in his mid-thirties, living in Fair field, whom I interviewed one afternoon in January 2000. He fled to Portugal from East Timor in 1986 with his family, and eventually all came to Australia under the special family reunion program. As with most East Timorese I have met, Xaviér had suffered the loss of family and witnessed many traumatic events in...

  9. Chapter 5 Locating East Timoreseness in Australia: Layers of Hybridity, Anchored and Enmeshed
    (pp. 123-162)

    I’d like to open with a brief look at Fatima’s story because it highlights many of the issues I explore in this chapter. Fatima is a young East Timorese woman in her early twenties whom I interviewed in 2000. Her parents fled East Timor to Portugal in 1976, and Fatima was born there in 1978. Of her five siblings, only one was born in East Timor. She arrived in Australia in early 1993. Her parents are well known and very politically active in the community, and her mother, father, and elder brother all have a fervent wish to return to...

  10. Chapter 6 From Exile to Diaspora? On Identity, Belonging, and the (Im)Possibility of Return Home
    (pp. 163-200)

    Darwin International Airport, March 2001. I am on a short stopover on my way to East Timor. Darwin is Australia’s stepping-off point to East Timor—just a one-hour flight away—and the of official transit point for the United Nations UNTAET mission. Stepping off the plane and into the airport lobby I am struck by the extent of East Timor’spresencein Darwin. The airport is a sea of blue-beret-wearing peacekeepers, clusters of soldiers awaiting flights in or out of East Timor—faces ranging from expectant to bored. In a taxi on the way to the city, the gruff, woolly-bearded...

  11. Chapter 7 Conclusion: Independence Day: Looking to the Future
    (pp. 201-205)

    Today is East Timor’s Independence Day. Just imagine: five centuries of Portuguese colonization, twenty-four years of Indonesian occupation, two years of United Nations administration, and finally East Timor’s long-awaited independence day is here. I am in the town hall of an inner Sydney suburb at a party for East Timorese and solidarity supporters to celebrate Independence Day. At midnight last night, watched by an audience of international dignitaries and thousands of East Timorese, the United Nations flag was lowered in Dili and the new flag of an independent East Timor was raised for the first time. I experienced an extraordinary...

  12. Afterword: January 2005
    (pp. 206-210)

    Almost two years have passed since East Timor’s Independence Day, and five since the 1999 referendum. Much has changed in East Timor in that time, but the lives of many former exiles remain in limbo.

    Alexandre—a gentle and intelligent young man of twenty-seven—is one of the “1600 Group” who came after 1991 and were denied asylum status in Australia. As one of those who escaped the Dili Massacre, physically and mentally scarred by the experience, he fled to Australia when he was seventeen and since then has lived with the traumatic uncertainty of potential deportation to East Timor....

  13. Notes
    (pp. 211-218)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 219-222)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-230)
  16. Index
    (pp. 231-236)
  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 237-238)