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Social Anthropology: Events


Transformations of the Sacred in East Timor

Transformations of the Sacred in East Timor
Speaker: Dr Judith Bovensiepen # University of Kent
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Date and Time
22nd Jan 2016 15:00 - 22nd Jan 2016 17:00
Seminar Room 1, Chrystal Macmillan Building

For Catholic missionaries in the early twentieth century, the only way to achieve true conversion of Timorese ancestral ritualists was the deliberate destruction of sacred lulik houses. Although Timorese allegedly participated enthusiastically in this destruction, lulik (a term commonly translated as sacred, proscribed, holy, or taboo) remains a key part of ritual practice today. The paper seeks to sketch out a dynamic historical analysis of what may be described as a particular form of Southeast Asian animism, examining how people’s relationships with sacred powers have changed in interaction with Catholic missionaries. Highlighting the ambivalence of endogenous occult powers, it argues that the fear and power of the foreign is closely linked to the fear and power of lulik. This analysis does not just expose unintended consequences of the colonial project of missionisation, but also draws out the relational context within which the sacred is embedded.

Freshers 2013