Past Events

Timor-Leste Studies Initiative – Seminar Series 2021-2022

(see English below)

Ho apoiu husi Henry Luce Foundation, TLSI iha planu atu organiza semináriu publiku nain tolu iha Timor-Leste entre fulan Agustu 2021 no Marsu 2022. Temas ba seminárius tolu ne’e: (1). Papel Polisia (PNTL)no Siguransa Umana iha Timor-Leste Ukun-A;(2). Politika Eksterna Timor-Leste: China, ASEAN, no Kestaun konaba Integrasaun Ekonomia Rejional Postu-Covid19; (3). Identidade Timoroan.

With the support of the Henry Luce Foundation the TLSI is hosting a series of public seminars between August 2021 and March 2022. Three public seminars – either online or in-person in Dili, Timor-Leste – will explore the following topics 1) Policing and Human Security in Timor-Leste, 2) Timor-Leste Foreign Policy: China, ASEAN and the question of regional economic integration post COVID-19; and 3) East Timorese Identity: A work in progress

5th Pre-Conference Virtual Workshop of the Timor-Leste Studies Initiative @ the Association for Asian Studies

The 5th Pre-Conference Virtual Workshop of the Timor-Leste Studies Initiative @ the Association for Asian Studies was held online between March 11-18th, 2022. Panels included East Timorese scholars and scholars of East Timor focusing on three main areas: 1) Culture, Religion and Education; 2) International Relations and Political Economy; 3) Political Movements and their Histories. A roundtable session was also convened to discuss the future of Timor-Leste Studies at AAS. We sincerely thank participants and discussants who took time to read and review the papers presented providing invaluable feedback to paper authors.

The Timor-Leste Studies Initiative Pre-Conference Workshop, 18-19th March 2021

This year the Timor-Leste Studies Initiative Pre-Conference Workshop included two online panels. The first panel focused on ‘Tetum-language learning for international scholars and students’.  Experts in the field of Tetum-language learning and teaching to explored teaching Tetum as a less commonly taught Asian language through in-country and distance learning. Speakers included Dr Catharina Williams-van Klinken, Katrina Langford and Dr Trent Newman. The second panel, convened by Dr Sara Niner, focused on ‘Gender and Sexuality in Timor-Leste‘. This panel aimed to explore issues of gendered behaviour, roles, relations, attitudes and perceptions in contemporary society in Timor-Leste. Speakers inluded: Dr Deb Cummins from Bridging Peoples, Dr Li-Li Chen from Universidade Nasional Timor-Lorosa’e (UNTL), Berta Tilman from Grupu Feminista Timor and Luis Maia also from UNTL. You can watch recordings of the panel presentations here:

The Timor-Leste Studies Initiative Workshop, June 1-12, 2020

The Timor-Leste Studies Initiative Workshop was scheduled to take place at the 2020 Association of Asian Studies Annual Conference in Boston, USA. Due to the restrictions on mobility and public gatherings caused by the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide, the organizing committee decided to take the workshop online. The Timor-Leste Studies Initiative Virtual Workshop was held between June 1st and June 12th 2020. Given the complexity of working across time-zones and languages, each day panelists and participants focused on one paper which was made available online for reading and comments. Over the course of the workshop the Timor-Leste Studies Initiative website received 230 unique visitors in week 1 and 103 visitors in week 2. Visitors from around the world included Timor-Leste, USA, Canada, Portugal, Australia, Japan, UK, Indonesia, the Philippines, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Brazil among others. Many of these visitors were reached through daily updates about the workshop posted on social media Facebook and Twitter.

The workshop was organised around two panels. The first panel writing History In Timor-Leste” focused on the production on historical knowledge in Timor-Leste today and included papers by East Timorese scholars Antero Benedito da Silva (UNTL) and Rogério Sávio Ma’averu, as well as Takahiro Kamisuna (London School of Economics, UK), Amy Rothschild (Ithaca College, USA),  Tsuchiya Kisho, (NUS, Singapore), David Webster (Bishop’s University, Canada), Marisa Gonçalves (University of Coimbra, Portugal), Vannessa Hearman (Charles Darwin University, Australia). The second panel centred on “Current Trends in Timor-Leste Studies” and included papers by East Timorese scholars Maria Madeira and mica Barreto Soares, as well as Li-li Chen, an academic based at the National University of Timor-Leste (UNTL), and Susanna Barnes (University of Saskatchewan, Canada).

Panelists were appreciative of the opportunity for focused discussion and detailed feedback on their papers. They also noted the online format opened up opportunities for participation and collaboration to scholars who might otherwise not have the opportunity or funds to attend international events and conferences. Panelists were also invited to provide feedback to the Timor-Leste Studies Initiative concerning plans for the future, identifying the need to support continued participation of East Timorese scholars at the Association for Asian Studies Conference and pre-conference workshops, building on existing resources for teaching and learning Timor-Leste Studies, and supporting people-to-people competence building in Timor-Leste through partnerships with East Timorese institutions of higher learning the Timor-Leste Studies Association (TLSA – the primary professional organization for scholars working on TL) and the European Association for Southeast Asian Studies.

For more information and links to abstracts please visit:

Pre-Conference Workshop, Washington DC 2018


The pre-conference workshop for 2018 took place at the conference site on Thursday, March 22, from 9am to 5pm. A program for the day’s events can be downloaded here.

In addition to a series of more open-ended discussions, there were three organized panels, including:

1. Current Trends in Research on Timor-Leste
Chaired by David Hicks
In contrast to the lengthy research-poor period during which Timor-Leste was under the successive colonial governments of Portugal and Indonesia, a great deal of research is now being conducted in this independent nation-state. So it now seems the time to assess the nature of this work, and the results it has produced. Accordingly, this panel considers current research, and that conducted in the recent past, by scholars in a range of academic disciplines, but also by practitioners, officers of national and international organizations, and others. The research domains to be dealt with embrace an extensive array of topics—including national, regional, and local politics; administrative issues (national and local); economy and finance; NGOs; religion; democracy; local traditions; health; and demography. Presenters include Susana Barnes, Josh Trindade, Kelly Silva and David Hicks.

2. Archives and Source Materials for Timor-Leste Studies
Chaired by David Webster
Although long neglected in scholarly studies of Southeast Asia, Timor-Leste has begun to receive more academic attention in recent years. Building on insights from last year’s pre-conference workshop in Toronto, this panel will examine the growing base of source material available in Timor-Leste studies by examining archival sources and the role they play in historical memory. We will attempt to map future strategies to compile archival and other pertinent source materials. The panel will also survey those materials likely to be valuable in advancing the study of Timor-Leste in North American universities. Presenters include Hugo Fernandes, Susana Barnes, Clinton Fernandes, Trudy Huskamp Peterson and John Miller.

3. Historical Justice: Issues and Questions
Chaired by Michael Leach & Elizabeth Drexler
Fifteen years after the restoration of Independence, historical justice remains a key issue in Timor-Leste’s political life. Though post-independence governments have favored good relations with Indonesia over justice for victims, some progress has been evident in recent months with the establishment of the Centro Nacional Chega!—a successor body to the CAVR (Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation), which will become a permanent human rights record and archive. This panel will explore issues of historical justice in contemporary Timor-Leste, examining the positions of the state, victims’ groups, legal associations, the Church and other actors. It will also examine the way issues of historical justice affect broader nation-building issues of school curriculum development, and influence themes in popular culture, and in political campaigns. Presenters include Elizabeth Drexler, Hugo Fernandes, Michael Leach and Maria Manuela Leong Pereira.

Pre-conference Workshop, Toronto 2017


Download the program of events for our pre-conference workshop in Toronto here.

Read the review of our 2017 Toronto workshop on #AsiaNow, the online AAS newsletter.

The formal program for 2017 centered on two main events, including a pre-conference workshop (program available here) on Timor-Leste studies, and a SEAC-designated panel on The Transformation of Religion, Culture and Society in Timor-Leste. The latter included presentations from Lisa Palmer (University of Melbourne), Michael Leach (Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne), Josh Trindade (Office of the President, Timor-Leste) and Rui Graca Feijo (Universidade de Coimbra), with David Hicks (Stony Brook University) acting as Discussant, and Richard Fox (University of Heidelberg) as Chair. The abstract for the panel read as follows:

FRIDAY, 17 MARCH 2017 | 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Since its formal recognition as a nation-state in 2002, Timor-Leste has undergone a series of profound transformations cutting across political, economic, social and cultural life. How are Timorese responding to these changes? This panel brings together Timorese and non-Timorese scholars, and public intellectuals, to reflect on ‘modernization’ and its effects across a range of overlapping domains. We see in the domain of religion, for example, how the revival of animism in a nominally Catholic country has posed challenges for social scientific narratives of rationalization and ‘progress’ as much as it has raised vexing questions for the Church. Here the construction and reconstruction of ritual houses runs counter to the demands of more economically-minded Timorese, who argue resources would be better directed to developing public services, such as education and healthcare. Similarly, in the political realm, revival of ‘the ways of the ancestors’ defies the policies of government leaders, who are striving to transform those they deem parochially-minded villagers into citizens of a modern nation-state. Here the national government’s efforts to ‘modernize’ local administration at the suku level, and to arrogate villagers’ loyalties from their local and traditional councils to what the government considers a more ‘modern’ judiciary system, create problems for government and villages alike. In addressing these and related issues, the panelists will reflect on a range of factors, from the role of international organizations (e.g., USAID and related NGOs), to the rise of print media and its effects on national community, independence and belonging.

Preceding the AAS conference itself, the first year’s workshop took place on Thursday, March 16, 2017. The program of events included panels on (i) Economy and Politics, and (ii) Religion and Values. While the former included inter alia papers on migrant labor, the Japanese occupation of Dili and economic relations with China, the latter explored transformations in ancestor veneration, water rites and the sometimes problematic interaction between the Catholic Church and indigenous religion.

We also organized two photographic exhibits. The first centered on materials marking 2017 as the 30th anniversary of Timorese activism in Toronto, linking local practices of advocacy to global developments in politics and policy (organizer: David Webster). The second exhibit was called Fataluku Death and Life, and it was divided into two parts—the first examining tombs, with a primary focus on traditional funerary posts and Christian crosses; the second exploring Timorese martyrs’ graves and monuments (organizer: Rui Graça Feijó). A musical exhibition was also presented, drawing together materials from several ethnomusicological projects (including, e.g., the Heritage Inventory of Suai-Camenaça). This featured audio and video recordings, and related documentation, aiming to give a picture of current research on traditional musical practice (organizers: Aaron Pettigrew and Philip Yampolsky). The day concluded with a roundtable discussion centered on new developments in Timor-Leste studies, with an emphasis on how these developments might be highlighted – and further cultivated – at AAS through our 2018 program.

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