Accepted paper:

Young men in the shadow of the crisis: violence and urban masculinities in Timor-Leste


Henri Myrttinen (Nordic Institute of Asian Studies)

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines ways in which socio-economically marginalised males in urban Timor-Leste coped with the political crisis of 2006-2008 as well as profound social and economic changes of the post-conflict era through their involvement in gangs, martial arts groups and ritual arts groups.

Paper long abstract:

As the violent political crisis of 2006 unfolded in the streets of Dili, Timor-Leste, gangs, martial arts groups and ritual arts groups soon took centre stage and played a key role in perpetuating the violence. For many of the young men involved, the groups were a vehicle to address their political and economic grievances in the post-conflict era. Based on my field research, I argue however that membership in the groups also serves to address other social issues as well. The masculine identities formed within and through the membership in these groups allow the young men to re-negotiate their position in the gendered hierarchies of Timor-Leste society. The identities created reflect the legacies of East Timorese tradition, Portuguese colonialism, Indonesian occupation and UN intervention but also of the impacts of the resistance struggle, urbanisation and globalisation. The resultant hybrid identities combine social imaginings of the local and traditional as well as of the global and modern, allowing the young men to find expressions for their masculinities in a world where they are not able or willing to subscribe to traditional East Timorese expressions of masculinities nor able to access other hegemonic imaginings of masculinities, such as that of the modern, urban, white-collar professional or of the heroic resistance warrior from the independence struggle.

panel W072
Masculinities in times of uncertainty and change