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Becoming LandownersEntanglements of Custom and Modernity in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste$
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Victoria C. Stead

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780824856663

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824856663.001.0001

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Customary Connection to Land and Practices of Resilience

Customary Connection to Land and Practices of Resilience

(p.26) Chapter 2 Customary Connection to Land and Practices of Resilience
Becoming Landowners

Victoria C. Stead

University of Hawai'i Press

An ethnography of Cacavei, a rural subsistence community in eastern Timor-Leste, provides a case study for theorizing customary connection to land. When the community was displaced during the period of Indonesian occupation, forms of customary connection to land—including ritual practice, gardening, burial, and story-telling—were a source of resilience in the face of enormous change and suffering. In Cacavei, and in other communities where customary forms of sociality endure, people and land are mutually constitutive. Customary sociality privileges embodied, face-to-face encounters, but in the emphasis placed on genealogical continuity across time it also accords importance to relationships with the dead, with spirits, and with the yet-unborn. Connection to land plays a key role in mediating the abstraction of physical death, with relations to ancestors and other disembodied kin embedded in the land itself, and thus given material form. The capacity to negotiate abstraction underpins the resilience and negotiability of customary systems.

Keywords:   Cacavei, resilience, negotiability, abstraction, embodiment, genealogy, nature-culture binary

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