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Open Access Subordinating Timor: Central authority and the origins of communal identities in East Timor

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Subordinating Timor: Central authority and the origins of communal identities in East Timor

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In 2006, a mere seven years after the overwhelming vote in opposition to Indonesia's final offer of 'broad autonomy' and only four years after the restoration of independence, communal violence erupted in Dili, the capital of East Timor. This violence was framed in terms of tensions between westerners, known as kaladi, and easterners, known as firaku. This essay seeks to answer two basic puzzles. First, what are the origins of these communal labels? Second, why did these terms resonate so profoundly within East Timorese society so soon after independence? Tracing the history of these terms, this essay argues that across more than three centuries these communal labels have emerged during crucial struggles to exert central authority. In doing so, this essay highlights the relationship between regional identities and the social ecology of food.

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