Conflict, Identity, and State Formation in East Timor 2000 - 2017


In Conflict, Identity, and State Formation in East Timor 2000-2017, James Scambary analyses the complex interplay between local and national level conflict and politics in the independence period. Communal conflict, often enacted by a variety of informal groups such as gangs and martial arts groups, has been a constant feature of East Timor’s post-independence landscape. A focus on statebuilding, however, in academic discourse has largely overlooked this conflict, and the informal networks that drive Timorese politics and society. Drawing on over a decade of fieldwork, Scambary documents the range of different cultural and historical dynamics and identities that drive conflict, and by which local conflicts and non-state actors became linked to national conflict, and laid the foundations of a clientelist state.

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James Scambary, PhD (2015, Australian National University), is a research fellow at Deakin University. His publications include (2015), ‘In search of white elephants: the political economy of resource income expenditure in Timor-Leste’ Critical Asian Studies, 47 (2): 283-308.
"This is a book that I would hope (against hope) that external actors involved in peacebuilding and development would read, even if they do not engage with Timor-Leste. It compellingly makes the case for why a contextualised, nuanced, grounded analysis of conflicts is needed."
– Henri Myrttinen, in International Quarterly for Asian Studies 52:1-2 (2021).

"One of the great accomplishment of Scambary in this book was his ability to link an extremely detailed, micro level empirical research with a broader and often very abstract discussion on peacebuilding and statebuilding and clearly detailsome important gaps in the literature, while providing ways to move forward. This is not an easy task and was probably only possible due to the author’s long experience researching and working in Timor-Leste, most notably engaging with members of the community, experiencing the micro level, while also working extensively with different projects and consultancies for development agencies in the country. This is a book to be read more than once, so the reader may grasp all the amount of information provided with such rich detail."
– Roberta Holanda Maschietto, Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, in International Peacekeeping
Acronyms and Foreign Terms List of Figures and Tables 1 The Enigma of the 2006 Crisis  1 An Alternative Reading  2 Dominant Narratives   2.1 The UN Made Me Do It   2.2 Post-Crisis Representations   2.3 The Invisibility of Sub-National Conflict  3 Some Observations on the Ground   3.1 Rural-Urban Linkages  4 Normative Traditions  5 New Paradigms  6 New Critical Scholarship  7 Conceptual Approach  8 Book Structure 2 An Archaeology of Conflict  1 Historical Legacies of Conflict   1.1 The 1975 Civil War   1.2 The Indonesian Invasion   1.3 Displacement and Resettlement   1.4 The Creation of ISGS  2 The 1999 Referendum Violence   2.1 ‘Mixed with other Matters’  3 Social and Cultural Background   3.1 Language and Ethnicity   3.2 Social Organisation   3.3 Payback Traditions   3.4 Traditional and Administrative Residential Structures   3.5 Rural-Urban Migration   3.6 Conclusion 3 The 2006 Crisis in Context  1 Early Tensions  2 The April/May 2006 Crisis   2.1 Orchestrated and Inclusive Violence  3 The Second Phase  4 Patterns in Conflict  5 The Post-Crisis Period   5.1 Conclusion 4 Mystics, Messiahs and Machismo: MAGS and Veterans’ Groups  1 Group Typology  2 Veterans’ groups   2.1 Linkages and Alliances  3 Martial Arts Groups   3.1 Linkages and Alliances   3.2 Conclusion 5 Gangs or Glee Clubs? Urban Dili-Based Groups  1 Group Origins  2 Violence as a Social Construct  3 Group Typology   3.1 Youth Groups   3.2 Clandestine Groups   3.3 Gangs  4 Multiple Identities and Memberships   4.1 Conclusion 6 Conflict and Resilience in a Squatter Settlement  1 Background  2 Contested Authority   2.1 Dynamics of Communal Conflict  3 Symptoms of Alienation or Forms of Resilience?   3.1 Conclusion 7 Implications for Peacebuilding  1 Macro-Level Approaches to Peacebuilding  2 The IDP Return Process  3 mag Mediation Initiatives  4 Localised Initiatives  5 Hybrid Approaches  6 Participatory Approaches  7 Local Approaches   7.1 Conclusion   7.2 As Mac Ginty and Richmond contend 8 The Foundations of a Clientelist State  1 Politics and Elections East Timor Style  2 Emerging Clientelist Patterns  3 Centralisation of Power  4 A Culture of Informality  5 Defining Power Configurations   5.1 Conclusion 9 Conflict and State Formation: An Integrated Understanding  1 Understanding Conflict Dynamics  2 The 2006 Crisis and State-Formation  3 Postscript References Index
Anybody interested in the politics and history of East Timor and those with a broader interest in the processes of conflict, peacebuilding and state formation globally.
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