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Visions of prosperity and conspiracy in Timor-Leste

Bovensiepen, Judith M. (2016) Visions of prosperity and conspiracy in Timor-Leste. Focaal- European Journal of Anthropology, 2016 (75). pp. 75-88. ISSN 0920-1297. E-ISSN 1558-5263. (doi:10.3167/fcl.2016.750106) (KAR id:55995)


In Timor-Leste, visions of radical societal transformation and future wealth derived from gold and oil are accompanied by concerns that outsiders might be conspiring to rob the country of its riches, as well as conjuring up dystopian scenarios of sinister plots and future mayhem. Examining national narratives and local accounts, this article argues that visions of prosperity and visions of conspiracy are two sides of the same coin; both are embedded in an understanding that power works in invisible ways. In discussing these visions in relation to the literature on “conspiracy theories” and “cargo cults” (terms that have recently been imported to the study of Timor-Leste), it explores the critical potential of these visions. Whereas the labels “conspiracy theory” and “cargo cult” create distinctions between the “rational” perspective of the West and the “irrationality” of non-Western others, as practices these visions end up collapsing such distinctions by appropriating the power of the outside.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.3167/fcl.2016.750106
Projects: Anticipating prosperity: A study of community expectations and the petroleum industry in Timor-Leste
Subjects: H Social Sciences
J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (
Depositing User: Judith Bovensiepen
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2016 12:43 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 23:10 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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Bovensiepen, Judith M..

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