12 October 2011

Culture and its Impact on Social Community Life: Case Study of Timor-Leste

Center for International Conflict Resolution (CICR) at Columbia University & Belun - Culture and customs are at the center of the social order in Timorese communities. Even with a modest population of one million people, a variety of ethno-linguistic groups co-exist within the nation, each speaking a unique local language and adhering to customs originating from animistic belief systems that have been passed down since ancient times. Throughout the history of foreign occupation and into present times, culture has offered an abiding source of identity and stability for the Timorese people, even though a strong sense of ‘state-based’ national identity is still evolving in this young nation.

Despite the variety of traditions and practices in existence, the system of fetosaa-umane is common to all ethno-linguistic groups. Upon marriage, the husband’s family (fetosaa) and the wife’s family (umane) are bound together in a life-long partnership that requires them to provide mutual support for all important events and ceremonies such as births, marriages and funerals. Requirements for ceremonial transactions on such occasions are prescribed by the uma lisan (houses of tradition) of the husband and wife.

While the fetosaa-umane system is the backbone of Timorese society and is intended to strengthen unity between families, thus promoting harmony and social cohesion, this research was conducted in order to explore concerns raised through monitoring data gathered through the Early Warning and Early Response (EWER) program which indicated that certain cultural practices may be indirectly contributing to inter-familial and communal conflict in Timor-Leste. Read the full report...

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