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Alternative forms of power in East Timor 1999- 2009: a historical perspective

Grainger, Alex (2013) Alternative forms of power in East Timor 1999- 2009: a historical perspective. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

This thesis presents an alternative to prevailing understandings of politics in East Timor in the period 1999-2009. Employing the language of state-building, dominant views posit that the new nation’s ‘crisis’ in 2006 is attributable to a ‘weak state’, arguing that substantial constraints on ‘human development’, a legacy of either the Indonesian period or failures of UN state building, presented insurmountable challenges to ‘capacity building’ which hampered the development of a public administration and other arms of the state. A closely related body of analysis attributes the causes, passage and resolution of ‘crisis’ to actors from the political elite. In this view, intraelite conflict foreclosed the possibility of the crisis’s early resolution, and attributed crisis to bad ‘policy-making’. A second perspective posits that a crisis was the result not of a weak state, but of the disempowerment of a strong civil society, that through ‘networked governance’, a legacy of the resistance network against Indonesia, can be relied on to rule. This thesis suggests that the remarkable uniformity of these analyses can be explained by their having: a) largely overlooked pre-1999 politics; and b) used a liberal perspective in which both abstractions and technical solutions (rule of law, capacity building) are assumed to be able to ‘correct’ ‘problems’ leading to ‘crisis’. This thesis proposes an explanation for contemporary politics found not solely in crisis or peace, but in the past. The postcolonial state is examined through the lens of colonial power relations, in terms of the extent and limits of modern ‘bio-power’. Successive chapters examine health and hygiene, the inculcation of norms and dispositions, family and habitat, and monetization. These themes are related back to state formation across the 20th century, and moreover, to an evaluation of life and death, processes evident throughout the practices of contemporary politics, including being significant in the institution of the postcolonial state. A key site of this power across time has been ‘missionary power’, embedded and semi-autonomous from the colonial state, rather than the Catholic Church per se. The manifold limits of colonial bio-power are identified not only as being a result of the paucity of material resources of the state, therefore, but also colonial ambivalence over subjects, durable relations between (and divergent representations of) missionaries and indigenous authorities, and contradictions between ‘modernity’ and ‘tradition’, all of which are shown to play out in contemporary politics. Through this analysis, the thesis reveals an alternative interpretation of East Timor since 1999, and offers possibilities for considering politics in other postcolonial contexts.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Alex Grainger
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Sets: Departments > Government
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3496

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