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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Housing the Truth: The Archived Legacy of Transitional Justice in Timor-Leste

  • Author(s): Lipscomb, Leigh-Ashley
  • Advisor(s): Cohen, David J
  • et al.

Based on testimony and documentation in the archives of Timor-Leste and Indonesia, participant observation and interviews with key actors in the transitional justice process, this study seeks to document and analyze the fate of the thousands of stories that were given by the Timorese and Indonesian people to transitional justice institutions established by Timor-Leste since 1999. By tracing the life of these stories and their tropes, these institutions' truth-telling processes will be assessed.

Key analytical questions include: How do transitional justice institutions create and express "truth" narratives, and how are those forms of expression relative to the local cultural context? What are victims' and perpetrators' roles in the creation, transformation and preservation of these narratives? What becomes of these stories after the institutional truth-seeking mandates end? Finally, what can the study of Timor-Leste teach us about truth-telling in other post-conflict states?

This study will document both the synchronization and discord of local knowledge with the production of universal narratives of justice in Timor-Leste through the transitional justice process. Interlocutors, referred to as narrative centers, are shown to be indispensible animators of truth-telling and loci for bringing victims' truths from the margins to the centers of national discourses.

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