Post-Conflict Trauma and the Remain(der)s of Violence In Timor-Leste

Emily Toome2

2RMIT, Melbourne, Australia

The incorporation of trauma theories and therapeutic programs into peacebuilding interventions has been subject of much debate. At a bare minimum, there is now wide recognition that it is inappropriate and insufficient to focus exclusively on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in conflict-affected populations. Good, Good and Hinton (2015) have described how in Aceh the ‘remainders of violence’ are comprised of an array of mental health difficulties and somatic complaints. In Timor-Leste, remainders of violence—dreams, distress, disease, and even further deaths—arise in part from having not appropriately dealt with the remains of violence: the human remains of those who died or went missing during the Indonesian occupation. As James (2015) observed in Haiti, so too in Timor-Leste does the fate of the dead inform a local trauma ontology. Here I take two examples from fieldwork in Timor-Leste to describe how people are addressing the remain(der)s of violence. Looking at female victims participating in an NGO’s ‘trauma healing’ activities, and at state facilitated family reunions of ‘labarik lakon’ (lost or stolen children), I consider how family members’ practices for quieting the spirits of the (assumed or in fact) deceased sit in relation to sometimes divergent interpretations of what contributes to post-conflict healing.




The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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