Dance and Martial Arts in Timor Leste: The Performance of Resilience in a Post-Conflict Environment


Siapno, Jacqueline. 2012. “Dance and Martial Arts in Timor Leste: The Performance of Resilience in a Post-Conflict Environment.” Journal of Intercultural Studies 33 (4): 427–43. 

Author: Jacqueline Siapno


This paper is an ethnographic study of dance traditions and martial arts training in rural upland mountain communities and the urban capital, Dili, in Timor Leste, and how ‘speaking beyond trauma’ is articulated through body movements. It explores the relationship between individual body movement and socio-political ecological movements, both at the level of the local (rural villages) and the global (global governance outfits). It examines the intersection/s between indigenous traditional Timorese dances (such as soro tais, sau batar, foti raba, likurai, bidu, tebedai, tebe-tebe and other dances) and external ideational influences brought in by the presence of UN Peacekeeping and Police and international aid workers (including aikido martial arts). What do dance traditions tell us about the resilience of cultural identity in a post-war, post-revolutionary, post-conflict environment? What kinds of impact do external ideational influences, including martial arts forms, have on local communities? How are gender systems and gender relations in the community transformed? It suggests that embodiment and local knowledges formed through practices and regimens of bodily discipline, grace and physical training (such as in ritual, martial arts and performing arts, for example), can complement and/or challenge abstract theoretical writings on ‘embodying peace’ in post-war countries.

Keywords: resilience, post-war environments, female mobility, rural development, Timorese traditional dance, embodying peace, martial arts

Topics: Gender, Gender Roles, Women, Health, Trauma, Indigenous, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Post-Conflict Regions: Oceania Countries: Timor-Leste

Year: 2012

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