12 October 2011

Local Memory Practices in East Timor: Disrupting Transitional Justice Narratives

East Timor Legal News 12 Oct 2011 Source: Oxford University Press Lia Kent Postdoctoral Fellow, State, Society and Governance in Melanesia program, Australian National University, Australia. Email: lia.kent@anu.edu.au

Abstract
Transitional justice discourse is underpinned by an assumption that trials and truth commissions will assist individuals and societies to ‘come to terms’ with, and move on from, complex legacies of violence. This article considers how local practices of memorialization and commemoration, and the activities of victims’ groups in East Timor, disrupt these assumptions. It highlights how individuals and local communities in East Timor are attempting to ‘remake a world’ in ways that may differ markedly from the priorities of UN-sponsored transitional justice institutions and their nation's leaders. In addition, it explores how some survivors are embracing the language of victims’ rights to appeal to the state to respond to their experiences of suffering. These developments, which indicate that survivors are in various ways embracing, resisting and transforming ‘official’ justice discourses, highlight that the pursuit of justice in post-referendum East Timor is far more dynamic, locally grounded and open-ended than the narrative of transition implies.

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