Exchange and resilience in Timor-Leste

Andrew Mcwilliam*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    36 Citations (Scopus)


    The collapse of the market economy and most employment opportunities that accompanied the withdrawal of Indonesia from East Timor in 1999 prompted the re-emergence of customary exchange practices that were heavily attenuated during Indonesian rule (1975-99). For many Fataluku-speaking Timorese communities, the strict internal security regime that accompanied military occupation curtailed opportunities for enacting vital exchanges that inform and reproduce social relations between kin, affines, and ancestors. As they rebuild their lives in a now independent Timor-Leste, a renewed attention to exchange and the reciprocal flow of gifts, goods, labour, and blessings is again engaging Fataluku households. In this context, ideas of obligation and mutual exchange become constitutive elements of socio-economic and religious activity that is fundamental to the resilience of the community. The article considers the role of gift economies as expressions of human security from below and as strategies designed to mitigate economic uncertainty through ritual exchange and religious action.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)745-763
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


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