The spectral city: Cultural belonging, urban space, and post-conflict reconstruction in Dili, Timor-Leste /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Tusinski, Gabriel Omar, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (378 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Susan Gal; Danilyn Rutherford Committee members: Francois G. Richard.
This item is not available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-02(E), Section: A.
Summary:This dissertation is an urban ethnographic study of state and international post-conflict interventions into housing and urban space in the capital city of Timor-Leste, the first new nation of the 21st century. As Timor's UN sponsored independence referendum in 1999 was accompanied by a massively destructive scorched earth campaign, efforts to build the new nation-state have taken place alongside the reconstruction of urban infrastructure. Based on 14 months of urban ethnographic and archival research, the dissertation examines projects to rebuild the urban architectural fabric, resettle displaced people, and formalize land-claims through national mapping projects. By tracing how nation-building discourses and architectural reconstruction at once revitalize indigenous Timorese cultural sensibilities about house-based kinship and yet simultaneously frame these kinship practices as incompatible with democratic ideals, I reveal and analyze a contentious urban politics of cultural and national belonging. I suggest that Dili is often experienced as a "spectral city" at once haunted by ancestral obligations among kin and subject to unprecedented international visibility and scrutiny oriented towards building national unity and promoting neoliberal development within a global political economy.
The dissertation asks what an emerging nation-state looks like when it is built from the rubble and ruins of alternative forms of belonging and place. In Timor, the new nation-state and houses are both recognizable and desired forms of belonging that are contingent upon Timorese people's reflexive ideas about the integral connections between people and places. I demonstrate how these connections are not "natural" or innately given, but are rather historically emergent, ideologically mediated, and culturally constructed. That is, they are made--and made known--through signification, or people's use and interpretation of signs of spatiotemporal attachment, resemblance, and conventional association. Using analytical approaches from linguistic and semiotic anthropology, I explore a Timorese "indigenous semiotics of social relating" that articulates the relations between Timorese house-based kinship, nationhood, and urban reconstruction.
Specifically, I examine how urban dwellers' subtle everyday material practices such as the procurement and chewing of betel nut, preparation and co-consumption of food, aesthetic house-adornment, funerary rights and marriage practices draw urban houses into rural kin-based networks. At the same time, governmental techniques of socio-spatial standardization such as cadastral mapping endeavor to formalize the relations between people and urban places and establish state institutions as their necessary causal intermediaries. This dissertation therefore traces the constitutive tensions engendered by these concurrent modes of cultural and political recognition as they unfold in material and spatial interventions---reconstruction, mapping, and eviction---in an urban zone of encounter.