Living through Terror: Everyday Resilience in East Timor and Aceh


Siapno, Jacqueline Aquino. 2009. “Living through Terror: Everyday Resilience in East Timor and Aceh.” Social Identities 15 (1): 43–64. doi:10.1080/13504630802692903.

Author: Jacqueline Aquino Siapnoa


Rather than subordinating the author’s lived experience and embodied knowledge of violence to a dialogue with a ‘rule of experts’, the essay considers how international and local responses to violence can be better integrated from the survivor’s points of view. The essay traces the process that goes from the direct experience of violence to emotional healing as a spiritual journey of under- standing the conditions for a sustainable, embodied peace. The essay was written over a period of two years, starting in March 2006 when the author returned to Aceh to conduct research on forced displacement after a six-year absence. In April 2006 the security situation in Timor Leste worsened and the author found herself writing the first draft in a gudang (storage room) in Gleno, Ermera, where she and her family were forcibly displaced for several months. In May 26 the author’s home in Delta I, Dili, was burnt down, and, subsequently, in the space of one to two months more than two thousand homes were burnt down throughout Dili, causing thousands of people to be displaced. The first draft of the essay was completed in February 2008, after attempted assassinations on the President and Prime Minister of Timor Leste. By this time, the author was very ill, after having been evacuated three times, and in the precarious condition of being Timor Leste’s ‘interim first lady’. Once the author had been able to heal and regain her strength, having initially wanted to withdraw what seemed a depressing piece of writing, the final draft of this essay was completed. Thus, the essay highlights the process of writing and re-writing of a self-reflexive, marginal female scholar who is immersed in social, political, and ecological movements in both Aceh and Timor Leste, and whose ethical responsibility is to disclose the truths, deficiencies, and weaknesses not just of herself but also of the character of the state and political leaders in these two societies. In this sense, the essay addresses more broadly the challenges faced by scholars who write ‘theory’ while living their everyday in a conflict environment. 


Keywords: resilience, embodying peace, equilibrium, agency, speaking beyond trauma, militarised masculinities

Topics: Displacement & Migration, IDPs, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Health Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania Countries: Indonesia, Timor-Leste

Year: 2009

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