Indigenous Spirits and Global Aspirations in a Southeast Asian Borderland
Indigenous Spirits and Global Aspirations in a Southeast Asian Borderland
Timor-Leste's Oecussi Enclave
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Table of Contents
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A note on language
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Frontiers imagined, frontiers observed
A short of history of a small country
Life between lines: an outline of Oecussi
The kase, the meto, and the threefold division of indigenous life in Oecussi
Urban highlanders: movement and authority in Oecussi
Encounter. Change. Experience
Theories of encounter
Theories of change
Theories of experience
Encountering Oecussi: serendipity and the social imperative
Chapter 1 works cited
Chapter 2: Body and belief in Timor-Leste
His name was Octobian Oki
The dual utility of ritual in urban Timor
Spirits, somatic experience, and the limits of belief
Jake's story: Atauro
Jake's story: Oecussi
Land as life in Timor-Leste - the embodiment of knowing
Chapter 2 works cited
Chapter 3: The ruin and return of Markus Sulu
Precedence and the modern pegawai
The Sulu, their supplicants, and the shame of Markus
'All Timor knew about the Sulu'
Rain and money: meto tales as a way of controlling kase fortunes
Chapter 3 works cited
Chapter 4: Angry spirits in the special economic zone
ZEESM - Timor's special economic zone
High modernism
Oecussi's indigenous political/spiritual system
Growing food and relationships: Meto land practices
Affect, angry spirits, and resistance in Oecussi
Illness, anxiety, and affect in an inspirited land
Chapter 4 works cited
Chapter 5: Stones, saints and the 'Sacred Family'
Religion in Oecussi: the concept of le'u, the coming of the Catholic and the influence of the Indonesian state
'Heat', healing, and the meto in Oecussi
'Strangeness', Mr. Bean and meto healing in 2015
The book of Dan. The door in the tree
Stones that look like saints
Healing and the Sacred Family
Chapter 5 works cited
Chapter 6: Meto kingship and environmental governance
Forests, failed states, and the local as a way of getting by
Jose and forest: personal ecologies of governance in the 21st century
Cloaking kingship - the Besi and the consolations of a failing state
The constraining - and enabling - effect of meto perspectives on kase law
Chapter 6 works cited
Chapter 7: Ritual speech and education in Kutete
Eskola Lalohan
Ritual speech in Oecussi
Children of the charcoal, children of the pencil
Chapter 7 works cited
Concluding thoughts: encounter, change, experience
An animating interior: the meto and economic development
Seeming like a state
Lives in motion: the meto as movement in a global age
Concluding thoughts: works cited
Selected Glossary

Reviews and Features

"[This book's] highly creative, evocative and humorous prose makes for a joyful read. The ethnography comes alive through friendships, character portrayal and drama. Indigenous Spirits does not plunge the reader into the thick satay sauce of abstract theory and repetitive jargon, but presents Rose’s journey as, simply, a slow-moving encounter between an Australian anthropologist and Timorese. [...] Anthropologists may find Indigenous Spirits refreshing, as I do; students may find it inspiring; lay readers interested in Timor, anthropology and animism will find it unusually accessible."
- Christopher Shepherd, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, South East Asia Research (2021)

Michael Rose

Indigenous Spirits and Global Aspirations in a Southeast Asian Borderland

Timor-Leste's Oecussi Enclave

Over the past 40 years, life in Timor-Leste has changed radically. Before 1975 most of the population lived in highland villages, spoke local languages, and rarely used money. Today many have moved to peri-urban lowland settlements, and even those whose lives remain dominated by customary ways understand that those of their children will not. For the Atoni Pah Meto of Timor-Leste’s remote Oecussi Enclave, the world was neatly divided into two distinct categories: the meto (indigenous), and the kase (foreign). Now matters are less clear; the good things of the globalised world are pursued not through rejecting the meto ways of the village, or collapsing them into the kase, but through continual crossing between them. In this way, the people of Oecussi are able to identify in the struggles of lowland life, the comforting and often decisive presence of familiar highland spirits.
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Michael Rose

Dr Michael Rose is a research fellow at the Australian National University's College of Asia and the Pacific. He is an anthropologist and author with a passion for narrative ethnography and a varied, even colourful, background working jobs in policy, agriculture, international development and education throughout Eurasia and Australia.