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10.3 - Chapter 10 Difficult memories The independence...

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Chapter 10 Difficult memories The independence struggle as cultural heritage in East Timor Michael Leach is chapter examines the way di ffi cult sites of imprisonment, trauma and resist- ance are being remembered in the newly independent nation of East Timor. While the di ffi cult challenge of memorialising massacre sites, places of political imprisonment, torture and human rights abuses confronts many post-conflict societies, few represent as profound a loss as Timor-Leste, having su ff ered an estimated minimum 102,000 casualties during the Indonesian occupation from 1975 to 1999, along with forced population displacements and extensive non- fatal human rights violation through arbitrary detention, torture and rape (CAVR 2005: 43). 1 In Timor-Leste, these di ffi cult legacies are complicated by the distinct cultural and linguistic a ffi liations promoted by successive colonial regimes, political schisms within the former independence movement, a lack justice for the victims of human rights abuses during the Indonesian occupation, and the recent rise of regional tensions. ese fissures have complicated the process of nation-building, and the articulation of a unifying post-colonial national identity. As such, they are critical to understanding the cultural heritage of the independence struggle and its conservation in Timor-Leste, which is itself an exercise in articulating cultural nationalism. In examining East Timorese responses to these di ffi cult issues since independ- ence in 2002, this chapter discusses some of the challenging contexts of cultural heritage management in Timor-Leste, and surveys the colonial and post-colonial ‘layers’ of the cultural heritage landscape, examining their competing visions of East Timorese identity. It then focuses on East Timorese nationalist conservation of di ffi cult sites in the struggle for independence, including key jails and inter- rogation centres, massacre sites, and recent monuments to the armed resistance movement Falintil (Armed Forces for the National Liberation of East Timor). With limited resources, East Timor has had notable success in the conservation of key sites, and memories of the liberation struggle, at both the national and the local levels. Nonetheless, it is argued that the cultural heritage landscape reflects a major ‘fault line’ in post-independence politics, in that the contribution of younger East Timorese nationalists in the struggle for independence remains rela- tively neglected.
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Difficult memories 145 Contexts During the struggle for independence, a truly national sense of East Timorese identity and community arose from the collective experiences of su ff ering under the Indonesian occupation, which had a unifying e ff ect across various ethnic and language groups under the ‘colonial gaze’ (Anderson 1993). Since independ- ence, maintaining this unified sense of a common national identity has proven a more challenging task. Timor-Leste has witnessed intergenerational disputes over national identity and o ffi
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