Hybrid state formation in Timor-Leste

  • Minji Yoo

Student thesis: Phd


This study is an exploratory inquiry into ‘hybrid state formation’ in Timor-Leste. Due to the escalating number of internal conflicts since the end of the Cold War, the UN and the international community have made efforts to stabilise so-called failed or fragile states, which are mainly in the non-Western and post-colonial context. In spite of their efforts, international peacebuilding and statebuilding have not made successful records in these states. One of the mistaken approaches of international peacebuilding and statebuilding is that these projects were designed based on an ideal form of the state that follows Weberian tradition, and which mainly developed in the process of Western European modernisation. This international top-down approach has disregarded the local norms, values, social structure and tradition, and has therefore encountered the legitimacy problem and dysfunctional state institutions. In order to address the problems of the top-down approach, some critical scholars suggested ‘hybrid institutions’ to increase legitimacy, which involves incorporating local institutions within the international idea of the ideal state. However, this study argues that the institution-focused hybrid approach still retains the Weberian concept of the state and the top-down approach. The study, therefore, calls for the necessity of a new approach to understand the local-centred forms of the state, which reflects its local history: this approach is referred to as ‘hybrid state formation’. This study draws on the case of Timor-Leste to theorise hybrid state formation. Timor- Leste retains traditional values and institutions that still significantly influence ordinary Timorese people’s daily life, despite the fact that external forces such as Portuguese colonial power, Indonesian invaders and the UN mission have intervened to rule the society by implanting the modern state. By shedding light on this phenomenon, this study suggests a framework named ‘a web of authorities’ to delineate the Timorese hybrid state, in which a rational-legal authority co-exists with traditional and religious authorities. This framework also empirically explains the ways in which Timorese state formation has developed, and investigates the key state formation mechanism in Timor-Leste. Based on literature and via field research, this study identifies Timor-Leste’s traditional, religious and rational-legal authorities and analyses the relation between these multiple authorities, in order to consider the Timorese ‘web of authorities’ as a form of hybrid state.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHugh Macginty (Supervisor) & Oliver Richmond (Supervisor)


  • Agonistic pluralism
  • State theory
  • Hybrid state formation
  • A web of authorities
  • Authority
  • Hybridity
  • State formation
  • Peacebuilding
  • Statebuilding
  • Legitimacy

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