Martial Arts, Mysticism and Belonging – Constructing Post-Conflict Masculinities in Timor-Leste
Abstract: Since Timor-Leste (re-)gained independence in 2002, various martial arts groups (MAGs) and ritual arts groups (RAGs) have been a salient feature of life in the country. They gained international prominence during the violent events in 2006-2008, and though the largest MAGs were banned in 2013, they remain active and visible to this day. While the groups define themselves through the practice of a particular, imported martial art (MAGs) or adherence to a syncretic re-imagining of Timorese tradition (RAGs), the scope of their activities is far larger. Whereas their involvement in violence is what gains them the most notoriety, they also play other roles in society, politics, the economy and spiritual life of Timor-Leste. Although all of them are, in theory at least, open to women as much as men, they groups tend to be almost exclusively male. Based on field research in 2007-9 and again in 2019-2020, the talk will explore how the groups are pathways for the construction of post-conflict masculine identities in Timor-Leste as well as among the East Timorese diaspora.
Henri Myrttinen is a Visiting Research Fellow with the Gender, Peace and Security Centre at Monash University. He has over fifteen years of experience of working on gender and peacebuilding issues, both academically and in NGOs. He holds a Ph.D. in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and wrote his thesis on masculinities and violence in Timor-Leste.