Spiritual Landscapes of Life and Death in the Central Highlands of East Timor

Bovensiepen, Judith M. (2009) Spiritual Landscapes of Life and Death in the Central Highlands of East Timor. Anthropological Forum, 19 (3). pp. 323-338. ISSN 0066-4677. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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In the 1990s, the inhabitants of the East Timorese highland village of Funar returned to their ancestral land after having been forcibly dislocated by the Indonesian military. This paper explores how recent historical events, war, forced resettlement and conversion to Catholicism have affected the villagers’ relationship with the spiritual landscape. Have these historical developments, as they have done elsewhere in Southeast Asia, led to the purification of the landscape through which the material world is separated from the spiritual realm? I argue that, rather than purifying the landscape, the returning villagers are keen to ‘re-inspirit’ the material environment, restoring reciprocal relations with the spiritual realm and thus ensuring the economic and social benefits flowing from this. Catholicism is not considered to be opposed to the spiritual potency of the landscape; rather, Catholic symbols and practices are creatively appropriated as they are considered to be evidence of the landscape’s existing potency. However, the return migration involved not only the re-enchantment of the landscape but also an attempt to distance the dangerous spirits that inhabited the abandoned lands. Hence, I conclude, the returning villagers of Funar are involved in a twofold process aimed at achieving the right balance in their relationship with the spiritual landscape: attempting to restore and revitalise their reciprocal relations with it whilst also establishing a safe distance by detaching themselves from its threatening aspects.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Depositing User: Judith Bovensiepen
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2011 14:19
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2011 10:07
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/28535 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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