Accepted paper:

Faithful reproductions? Colonial ethnographies as mimetic technologies in East Timor

Author:

Ricardo Roque (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores colonial ethnographic knowledge about indigenous "uses and customs" as mimetic technologies of government in the context of the Portuguese administration of East Timor, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores colonial ethnographic knowledge about indigenous "uses and customs" as mimetic technologies of government in the context of the Portuguese administration of East Timor. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the study of "uses and customs" gained growing significance in the colonial vision of effective colonization and modern administration of justice among the indigenous populations of the Portuguese empire. This project presupposed that the government and 'civilization' of the wild peoples was grounded on the study and faithful reproduction of rites and laws perceived to be distinctively indigenous. However, in places such as Timor, the Portuguese colonizers since the seventeenth century had been intervening in the constitution of many local judicial customs, over time also giving shape to the Timorese consuetudinary traditions. By looking at the projects and ethnographic studies developed by the colonial administrators and governors of East Timor, this paper approaches the mimetic rationality of the Portuguese colonial ethnographies of usos e costumes, and discusses their turbulences and internal fractures.

panel P221
New histories of anthropology: the hidden emotions of colonial ethnography