Land Rights in Peacebuilding Discourse: Domination and Resistance in Timor Leste’s Ita Nia Rai Programme

Mr Maxim Mancino1, Dr Srinjoy Bose1

1University of New South Wales, Sydney, Sydney, Australia

The development of land rights programmes are deeply rooted in power relations. Using discourse analysis, this paper unpacks how preferences for certain programme designs reflect Western logics regarding ‘best practices’ for property rights institutions and tenure (in)security. In doing so, it interrogates the ontological positions that impact the design, scope, effectiveness, and sustainability of programs. In 2017 the Government of Timor-Leste passed the controversial Land Law Package. These laws were initially developed for a USAID land reform programme. But local dynamics, actions, and interests were ignored. Examining civil society exclusion from decision-making infers a reluctance to acknowledge local voices and practices that threatened liberal peacebuilding interests. The paper is organized into two sections. First, it provides the contextual framework for arguing how ideas of land rights are constructed and contested in Timor Leste, focusing on how dominant Western narratives create conceptual boundaries to restrict the recognition of indigenous ideas as legitimate and thus allowed to materialize. It then investigates how Western ontological positions contribute to the creation of boundaries to local participation, which contradicts liberal narratives of empowerment and capacity-building. Second, the paper focuses on civil society efforts to improve the programme through acts of resistance to bodies of authority.


Mr Maxim Mancino is an Honours student enrolled in the International Relations programme at UNSW, and recently completed a dual degree in Social Sciences and Commerce. Max researches topics in land rights, has volunteered at Refugee Advice Casework Service, and is currently working at a social justice pro-bono law firm.

Dr Srinjoy Bose is Lecturer in Politics and International Relations and researches topics in critical peace & security studies, with a focus on political order and violence, international intervention, state formation, democratisation, and the political economy of statebuilding and peacebuilding in ‘fragile’ and deeply divided states and societies.

Civil Society and the Quest for Taiwanese Identity

I-Hao Ben Liu1

1La Trobe University

Since Martial Law was lifted in Taiwan in 1987, the country has been undergoing rapid liberalisation in free speech and publications. Democratisation has propelled social movements carried out by civil, non-governmental and private organisations, sometimes inevitably leading to violence. Under democratisation since 1988, Taiwanese have been seeking their own identity. Ruled by foreign regimes for many centuries, namely, the Dutch, the Ming Dynasty Remnant forces, Qing Dynasty, the Japanese, and after the Second War the Nationalist government from Mainland China. The Taiwanese quest of identity has inevitably intertwined with social movements, voicing their rights, which were suppressed during the Martial Law (1948-1987) period.  One might question why and how does the quest of identity influences the broader the social movement. This paper will to explore the development of these two social forces and interactions between them.


I-Hao Ben Liu came to Australia in 1996, and completed his secondary education in Melbourne. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Chinese Studies and Political Science, and completed his Honours degree at Monash University. Later, he obtained his Master of Arts in International Politics from Melbourne University in 2008, and is currently, a Ph.D candidate at La Trobe University. His main research interests are in the fields of Taiwan and Asian Studies.

Space, Power and Society: Imagined Centre and Evolution of Chinese Psyche

A/Prof. Pawel Zygadlo1

1Department Of China Studies, XJTLU, , China

The notion of ‘Centre’ (zhongyuan, zhongyuan), for centuries, has been associated with the right to rule widely employed by the ones who claimed rights to govern China. Despite being challenged by numerous modernisation movements of 20th and 21st centuries, the entanglement between power and physical and imagined centre, seems to remain a vital factor determining self-identification and socio-cultural positioning of the individual even in contemporary China. The appreciation of physical, or imagined centrality of the individual and communities that one belongs to, seeking justification of actions and behaviours by appeal to the ‘central sanction’ (zhongyang), or ‘central importance’ (hexin) are almost indispensable elements of socio-political discourses and self-perception of the individual. This paper intends to first investigate the notion of the centre as it is expounded in the Classics. Subsequently, it will illustrate the way such understanding determines the socio-cultural self-positioning of the individual. In the following part, this paper will demonstrate how this perception had been challenged by modernity and how it adapted to the challenges of modern times. In conclusion, it will argue that despite numerous changes and necessary adaptations, the notion of ‘centre’   remains one of perpetuating values determining the uniqueness of Chinese culture and society.


Paweł Zygadło is Associate Professor in the Department of China Studies, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. He earned his PhD degree in Philosophy from National Chengchi University in Taipei in 2013 and then went to work in Mainland China. His research interests include Chinese philosophy, Chinese pragmatics, sociocultural psychology and intercultural communication. He authored one book and several journal articles. His most recent research project The Concept of Face in Contemporary Chinese Society: Theory and Practice, funded by Research Development Fund of XJTLU examines the adaptation and meaning of the notion of Face (lianmian) in 21st-century Chinese society.

Comparing Migrants, Comparing States: Reflections on Lao and Myanmar State Governance and Migrant Activism

Dr Sverre Molland1

1Australian National University

This paper deploys Lao and Myanmar labour migrants as a springboard for comparatively analysing Myanmar and Lao State governance. Based on ethnographic research in Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, notable differences exist in terms of how Myanmar and Lao migrants self-organize and engage in labour migrant activism in Thailand. Whereas Myanmar migrants tend to engage in ubiquitous migrant self-help groups (which at times resemble labour unions), Lao migrants tend to evade any such form of corporation. This paper suggests one must go beyond socio-cultural factors to consider political and institutional dimensions of Myanmar and Laos in order to account for these differences. Despite Myanmar and Laos’ shared legacy of authoritarian, socialist, one-party rule, they differ radically in how Myanmar’s military rule – as opposed to Laos’ party-structure – predispose young citizens to engage in modes of self-organising practices outside state structures. In turn, this has crucial implications for how labour migrants engage with informal self-organising practices and migrant activism in Thailand. As such, examining labour migrants in Thailand presents a fruitful vantage point to study Lao and Myanmar State governance in a comparative perspective.


Dr. Molland’s is an anthropologist whose research examines the intersections between migration, development and security in a comparative perspective, with specific focus on governance regimes and intervention modalities in mainland Southeast Asia. He has published widely on human trafficking and migration governance in the Mekong region.

Framing Discourses and Mobilizing Towards Collective Action: Environmental Movements’ Resistance Against Extractive Industries in the Philippines

Mr Joseph Edward Alegado1

1Ateneo De Manila University School Of Government, , Philippines

Extractive industries continue to encroach on the Philippines’ natural resources, amplified by the “liberalization, deregulation and privatization” policy of the Ramos administration in the mid-90s, which subsequent administrations have continued. States have generally gravitated towards legally regulating extractive capital, bounded within national policy frameworks. This has resulted in the burgeoning of extractive capital accumulation, in turn jeopardizing human rights and the environment. Under these conditions, the political dynamics of various environmental movements – that have strong ties to the Philippine Left and are marked by the great split during the early 90’s – continue to play a significant role in mobilisation of the movement and take advantage of political opportunity structures to resist the extractive consensus. Drawing on interviews and using framing analysis, the paper examines the dynamics of the resistance of various movements against extractive industries in recent years in the Philippines. The paper specifically situates the pivotal role of national movements in balancing the local narratives of resistance from the ground vis-à-vis its links to the transnational frames of contention and global initiatives against extractive industries. Further, the paper argues that resistance and successful campaigns of movements against extractivism are neither achieved through top-down nor bottom-up approaches but by a strategic use of global and local counter-narratives and strategies.


Joseph Edward B. Alegado is a communications practitioner and an emerging development studies scholar in the Philippines. He has more than five years of solid work experience in global non-profit organizations like Oxfam and Break Free From Plastic Movement; in project management through AGOS and in corporate social responsibility through the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. He finished his Master of Arts in Development Studies Major in Agrarian, Food, and Environmental Studies in the ISS in 2016 after completing a Master of Public Management degree in the Ateneo de Manila University School of Government (ASoG) in 2014. He currently teaches post-graduate courses on Masters in Public Management in ASoG.

Gathering the Dead, Imagining the State? Examining the Practices of Commissions for Recovering Human Remains

Dr Lia Kent1

1Australian National University, , Australia

An increasing amount of scholarly attention is being paid to the significance of family-led practices of recovering, reburying and honouring those who died during the 24-year Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste dead (Bovensiepen 2018; Viegas and Feijo 2017; Grenfell 2012; McWilliam 2008; 2011). Less attention has been paid, however, to the practices of local ‘commissions’ for the recovery of human remains (Komisaun Rekoilamentu Restu Mortais). These self-described commissions have been established at various scales – municipality, posto (administrative post) and suku (village) – and tend to be led by individuals who were once prominent figures in the armed or clandestine resistance. A key aspect of their work is searching for, and exhuming, the remains of those had been involved in the resistance. Remains are then stored in ossuaries or temporary protective houses (uma mahon) to await burial in one of the state’s Garden of Heroes cemeteries. In this paper I draw on de Cesari’s (2010: 625) concept of ‘non-state governmentality’ to examine the commissions’ practices. I show that, to some extent, the commissions are reinforcing the official discourses and practices of ‘valorisation’ promoted by the state, in which those who died while resisting the Indonesian occupation are deemed to be ‘martyrs’ who belong to the state and should be buried in designated Garden of Heroes cemeteries. At the same time, the practices of the commissions speak to the existence of needs for the present and hopes for the future that point to radically different imaginations of statehood (cf Fontein 2006). Specifically, they underscore the imperative of responding to the demands of the powerful dead for the viability of families, communities and the nation-state.



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.



Ontological Security Anchored in Death & the Afterlife: Shared Frameworks of Meaning and the Ramifications for Senses of Peace and Security.

Bronwyn  Winch3

3RMIT, Melbourne, Australia

While ‘security studies’ has traditionally been located within mainstream International Relations, a broadening of disciplinary approaches over the past thirty years has led to increasing recognition of localised expressions, understandings and politics of security. As part of this, priority has been given to vernaculars of security which emphasise the day-to-day lived experiences, realities and routines of individuals and communities. Drawing from the work of Anthony Giddens and applied in the context of contemporary Timor-Leste, this paper focuses on a definition of ontological security which is anchored in the existence of an afterlife and continuing ‘life’ of the dead. While the idea of security anchored in death may appear paradoxical, in this paper practices of habitual (and ritual) communication and exchange between the living and dead are taken to be an important shared framework in the reproduction of meaning-making. These practices not only contribute to a collective existential security framed by ideas of historical lineage but are also utilised to directly influence physical security and material environments and mitigate future risk.



Including People with Disability in Education: A Persistent for Future India

A/Prof. Nathan Grills1,2, Mr Jacob  Devabhaktula3, Ms Pam Anderson1, Ms Nicole  Butcher1, ms  Sarojitha Arokiaraj3, Mr Prottoy Das3

1The Nossal Institute for Global Health, University Of Melbourne, melbourne, Australia, 2Australia India Institute, melbourne, Australia, 3World Vision, Chennai, India

India’s National Education Policy (2019) is ambitious and future focussed but its implementation needs to be inclusive to improve the lives of children with disability in India.  The pre-existing Right To Education Act in India (2009) aimed to give access to all children yet the impact of the Act on children with disability in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities in India is unclear.  We conducted a cross-sectional study using randomised cluster sampling to measure access of children with disability to education and explore the relationship between disability, education and health among children in India. The study across 17 states included 39,723 households and 163,400 individual children.  Key outcomes of interest were school attendance, completion of early childhood education and highest level of education. The study found a one percent prevalence of disability in children aged 1-5, with a higher prevalence among boys.  Disability was linked disability to poorer access to education and a lower highest levels of education. This study confirmed the negative relationship between disability and educational exposure among children.  We highlight reasons for the failure of India’s current efforts and explore how the new National Education Policy can make improve access to education for children with disability in India.


Associate Professor Nathan Grills (MBBS, MPH, DPHIL, DPH) is a Public Health Physician at the Nossal Institute for Global health, University of Melbourne. He works on community health and disability largely in the Indian context.
Grills has a personal and professional interest in disability. Academically he researches on disability measurement. Programmatically he established the Samvedna Community Based Disability in India and has overseen the establishment of a national network of organisations responding to disability in India. Personally, he has a beautiful 5 year old daughter who has a profound developmental disability.

Using Theory of Planned Behaviour to Predict Adult Engagement in Science in Taiwan

A/Prof. Chun-Yen Tsai1

1National Sun Yat-sen University, , Taiwan

In psychology, the theory of planned behaviour (TPB) is a theoretical model that links one’s beliefs and behaviour (Ajzen, 1991). Engagement in science refers to the extent of participation in scientific learning activities (Chang et al., 2007; Lin et al., 2013). This study used TPB to predict adult engagement in science in Taiwan. The data were collected from 1,657 citizens by survey interviews and quantitatively analysed. Results showed that adult interest in science had the antecedents of attitude toward science (β= 0.31, p < .001), self-concept in science (β= 0.11, p < .001), and self-efficacy in science (β= 0.20, p < .001). Meanwhile, adult interest in science had an effect on engagement in science (β= 0.26, p < .001). The Structural Equation Modelling showed that the above model had the acceptable model fits (CFI = .93; GFI = .92; RMSEA = .05; SRMR = .05). It is suggested that adults’ interest in science was the considerable factor to promote their engagement in science. Meanwhile, adults’ attitude toward science, self-concept in science, and self-efficacy in science were the crucial parts to promote their interest in science.


Chun-Yen Tsai is an associate professor at National Sun Yat-sen University. His research focuses on educational technology and science education. Currently, he participates in some projects granted by the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan, which are related to the studies about educational technology and adult science education.



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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