Struggle, Suffering, and Symbols: Narratives of Nationalism and Representing Identity

  • Catherine E. ArthurEmail author
Part of the Rethinking Peace and Conflict Studies book series (RCS)


This introductory chapter situates the book within contemporary scholarship on Timor-Leste. It presents the theoretical framework for the study, drawing on Benedict Anderson’s thesis of ‘imagined communities’ and incorporating anthropological theories of symbols. Symbolic capital is of critical importance to the study, since it is this capital that gives the symbols and the actors that use them power and influence. Consequently, sociological theories of symbolic capital by Pierre Bourdieu and of symbolic conflict are outlined. The chapter then offers a brief history of the half-island and an overview of East Timorese nationalism since its formal stirrings in the 1970s. It traces the evolution of national identity from the original Maubere identity through to contemporary state narratives that place the tenets of funu (struggle) and terus (suffering) at the fore of official ‘East Timorese-ness’.


Nations and nationalism Benedict Anderson Symbols Pierre Bourdieu Timor-Leste 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queen’s University BelfastBelfastUK

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