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This article explores the complex transnational dimensions and trajectories of East Timorese long-distance nationalism (Anderson 1998, p. 73) (1) and reflects on the implications of interconnections with "outside" groups and discourses. Based on four years of research with the East Timorese exile community in Sydney between 1998 and 2002 I begin by mapping some of the "imaginative resources" of long-distance nationalism which have contributed to the collective imagination of the East Timorese community in the diaspora to describe some of the primary content of what Appadurai (1996, pp. 21-22) and Werbner (1998) have called the "diasporic public sphere". (2) In addition to mapping the "cultural products" and symbolic production of the East Timorese diasporic public sphere, I want to understand both the intercommunal and transnational links entailed therein and the implications of these on the shape of East Timorese diasporic identity. East Timor is the tiny half island territory which lies one hour to the north of Darwin, Australia, and at the southeasternmost tip of Indonesia. The western part of the island of Timor was part of the Dutch East Indies, while East Timor was a Portuguese colony until 1975 and the fall of the Portuguese Caetano regime. Two main political parties in East Timor were established: the Revolutionary Front for East Timor (FRETILIN) and the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT). Following a brief but bloody civil war between the two, FRETILIN unilaterally claimed independence for the territory in November 1975, fearful of Indonesian intentions towards the territory. The Indonesian military subsequently invaded, thus beginning 25 years of brutal occupation. Following years of struggle, East Timor finally won its independence in May 2002, precipitated by the referendum of August 1999 following the fall of Soeharto. Somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000 East Timorese people have come to Australia since the Indonesian occupation, more than 10,000 to Portugal, and a few to Macau, Mozambique, Canada, the United States, Ireland, and other parts of the world. The early 1975 refugees came to Australia by ship from Dili to Darwin in Northern Australia. Later arrivals came via Portugal, often spending a number of years there before applying to come to Australia to join family and be closer to East Timor. Some later arrivals after the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in Dili were students in Jakarta, taking a complex route out or entering embassy compounds there. Others came via places such as Thailand. Although small, this diaspora group has maintained strong transnational ties with their national and international counterparts.

October 1
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS)

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