After conflict: memory frictions in Timor-Leste and Aceh

Image of Timorese students at a commemoration gathering.

Event details


Date & time

Tuesday 24 May 2016


Seminar Room 1.04, Coombs Extension Building (8), Fellows Road, ANU
ANU Canberra


Lia Kent


+61 (0)2 6125 3948

Peace-building and transitional justice policy makers display growing interest in how initiatives to document, memorialise or commemorate the violent past might contribute to peace. An underlying assumption is that the prevention of future conflict and the promotion of peaceful co-existence rests upon remembering and developing an ‘agreed to’ narrative about past atrocities.

In this presentation, Lia draws on the insights of memory studies scholars and preliminary research findings from Timor-Leste and Aceh, to unsettle this assumption. Although memory studies scholars have long been attentive to the ways in which memorial sites and commemorative practices are integral to the construction of national and other political identities, they acknowledge that ‘official’ memory projects do not always unfold in the ways they are intended. Because memory is intrinsically linked to questions of power, legitimacy and recognition, it can be challenged by those who perceive their version of the past to be marginalised. In this sense, memory is under constant construction and reconstruction.

Lia’s presentation pays particular attention to the intersection between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ ways of remembering. Attending to this intersection, Lia suggests, can reveal much about emerging forms of political identity. It can disclose who (and what) is included and excluded, and the extent to which these identities are being embraced, renegotiated or challenged. These observations might, in turn, shed light on the quality of the ‘peace’ that is emerging. Peace, in this sense, is understood not as an absence of conflict, or an ideal state of social harmony, but as an ongoing, negotiated, social and political process.

About the Speaker

Dr. Lia Kent is a Research Fellow in the RegNet School of Regulation and Global Governance and member of the Centre for International Governance and Justice (CIGJ). Prior to joining RegNet Lia was a Research Fellow at ANU’s State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) program for four and a half years. With a background in socio-legal studies, Lia has research interests in the areas of transitional justice, memory studies, peacebuilding, and gender studies, with a geographic focus on Timor-Leste.

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