Pre-Conference Workshop 2021

The Timor-Leste Studies Initiative, with generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Southeast Asia Council’s (SEAC) Indonesia and the Timor-Leste Studies Committee (ITLSC) at the Association of Asian Studies (AAS), will be holding a pre-conference workshop at the Association for Asian Studies Conference due to take place virtually March 21st -26th 2021. The pre-conference workshop will be held online over two days 18th and 19th March.

We are planning two public panels for this event:

Panel 1: Thursday, March 18th, 8.30h to 12.00h (Dili, Timor-Leste time) Time Converter

The first panel will focus on ‘Tetun-language learning for international scholars and students’. This panel focuses on one of the five priority areas identified by participants in previous TLSI workshops in Toronto (2017), Washington (2018) and Online (2020). We seek to gather experts in the field of Tetun-language learning and teaching to explore teaching Tetun as a less commonly taught Asian language through distance learning. Invited speakers include:

  • Dr Katrina Langford, Timor Link Online Language Training & Dr Trent Newman, University of Melbourne.
  • Dr Katharina Van Klinken, Alex Cham and Marta Cardoso, Dili Institute of Technology.
  • TBC, Representative from the National Institute of Linguistics Universidade Nacional Timor Leste

Panel 2: Friday, March 19th, 08.30h to 12.00h (Dili, Timor-Leste time) Time Converter

The second panel will focus on “Gender and Sexuality in Timor-Leste”. This panel aims to explore issues of gendered behaviour, roles, relations, attitudes and perceptions in contemporary society in Timor-Leste. Due to disparity in outcomes between women and men in many domains of life research is often focussed on women and how to create gender equality, but presentations on men and masculinities and non-binary gender expressions are very welcome. Invited speakers include:

  • Dr Sara Niner (convener)
  • Berta Antonieta Tilman, Grupu Feminista Timor
  • Luis Maia, Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosae
  • Dr Deb Cummins, Bridging Peoples.
  • Dr Li-Li Chen, Universidade Nacional Timor-Lorosae

To view Timor-Leste related activities happening at the AAS Annual Conference please click here.

The Timor-Leste Studies Initiative pre-conference workshop is a free event. Please click here to register online.

Thanks to our partners at Fundação Oriente the online sessions will be broadcast live in Dili with some Dili-based speakers in attendance.

Thanks to:



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Timor-Leste Studies Initiative

Virtual Pre-Conference Workshop 2021

Monday, March 22

8:30am – 10:00am EDT Colonial Land Legacies in Southeast Asia

This panel examines the legacy of colonial land policies and practices in Southeast Asia. We seek to explore the origins of colonial land policies, how these policies travelled across different colonial territories and were used by both colonizer and colonized in different chronological periods, geographies and contexts. We are interested in the production of colonial knowledge around land and land governance as well as the circulation of expertise and experts within and between colonial Empires. How policies, people and practices interacted and were transformed, and the effects or legacies of these policies on contemporary land policy and practice. We encourage the submission of papers that how colonial knowledge about land and land practices was produced, by whom, why and how. Works that identify key colonial agents and institutions responsible for the production of knowledge and circulation of ideas regarding land. How this knowledge was transformed into practice. And the legacy of these policies and practices in contemporary society.

3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT Ecology of Economies in Timor-Leste and Beyond: Initial Approaches

This roundtable aims to challenge market-driven and common-sense narratives which characterize the economy of Timor-Leste as unproductive, poor and unfair. Drawing on the expertise of discussants from a range of disciplines including anthropology, political science, economics, ecofeminism, history and human geography we will consider past and present economic dynamics in Timor-Leste to cast light on the following phenomena: 1) community-based economic values; 2) community-based entanglements with the market-driven economy; 3) colonial and post-colonial promotion of the market-economy and; 4) the dramatic and creative ways people respond to social and economic change. We wish to draw attention to the multiplicity of economies, or the ecology of economies present in Timor-Leste. We suggest the economy must be understood as the product of articulations between heterogenous elements engaged in processes of production, exchange and consumption by which populations and institutions guarantee their reproduction by replacing persons and things.

Wednesday, March 24

5:30 pm EDT Film Expo Screening of Wild Honey: Caring for Bees in a Divided Land

For more than a century, the island of Timor has been divided by a colonial border. This border has displaced and separated the people of Lookeu, dividing their land, water and history. Timor’s migratory wild honey bees challenge this division. Their migrations are essential to the agricultural and spiritual wellbeing of the people and places who depend upon them.In community honey harvest rituals, queen bees are courted in ceremony by men who climb high into the canopy to sing nocturnal forest love songs. These songs express gratitude to the bees, enticing and imploring them to give up their sweetness and maintain their seasonal visits. This film is the outcome of a long-term collaboration between researchers Balthasar Kehi and Lisa Palmer and the people of Balthasar’s homeland of Lookeu. It portrays a border community who, despite changing farming practices and increasing commodification, are determined to maintain the bees’ movement across the region and preserve their shared identity. For more information visit:


Beyond Nationalism: The Youth’s Struggle for the Independence of East Timor and Democracy for Indonesia

Takahiro Kamisuna, National University of Singapore

*The paper will be published in Indonesia Journal.

In the 1990s, East Timorese and Indonesian youths carried out joint protests against Indonesia’s New Order regime. Grasping a renewed student movement in Indonesia for democracy as an opportunity, the East Timorese students studying at Indonesian universities attempted to create a common political sphere with Indonesian student activists, despite their goals were different, independence and democracy. While the creation of a common political sphere has been frequently argued in the literature of nationalism by Southeast Asian scholarships, the analytical scopes of the existing literature have narrowly limited nationalism within the conventional wisdom of territorial nations. In contrast, this paper expands the extant literature’s notion of nationalism by interrogating political spaces that influence, accommodate, and transcend nationalism outside its territorial scope. Through fieldwork in Dili and Jakarta and archive research, this paper reveals that young East Timorese nationalists advanced and strengthened their cause by articulating Indonesiação do Conflito de Timor-Leste and Indonesianizing the conflict. Focusing on an East Timorese clandestine group in Indonesia, Resistência Nacional dos Estudantes de Timor-Leste (Renetil), this study argues that a conducive political sphere was created when East Timorese activists adopted the Indonesian nationalist rhetoric of pemuda (politicized youths), which allowed East Timorese to share common vocabulary of dissent with Indonesians. It suggests that nationalism is not an exclusive byproduct of different currents operating in a closed socio-political space but also by interactions of actors in more open and common political spaces as demonstrated by East Timorese-Indonesian solidarity.

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