Resistance, Solidarity and Memory: The wounded bodies in the East Timorese struggle for independence

Student thesis: Phd


On November 12, 1991, the Indonesian troops fired upon a peaceful memorial procession to the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. On that occasion, more than 271 East Timorese were killed, and an equal number disappeared and are believed dead. The Santa Cruz Massacre is considered the turning point in Timor-Leste's history as the massacre was recorded in video and broadcast throughout the world. According to Max Stahl, the photojournalist responsible for the footage, the victims were still alive and could still move, making their way toward him. As he mentioned: 'They were showing me their wounds...they wanted the world to see... more important than the fact of their death was that their deaths be meaningful' (Stahl, 2017). Given the role of these images in the East Timorese struggle for independence, in this thesis, I ask: How were the wounded bodies mobilised in Timor-Leste by resistance and solidarity movements during the 1990s and in memorialisation practices nowadays? I argue that, in the 1990s, such images were mobilised to create an imagery of human rights violations in Timor-Leste to call international attention to the independence struggle. These images created a scopic regime regarding East Timorese politics that determined the status of the bodies shown in the images and the kind of attention they merited. Nowadays, these images are also being used to challenge the official narrative of the past constructed by the government. Thus, in this thesis, I analyse the mobilisation of the images of wounded bodies in the resistance movement through the poems of Xanana Gusmão, in the photographs used by international solidarity movements, particularly Elaine Brière and Steve Cox's photographs and in the ongoing memorialisation practices in Timor-Leste.
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJenny Edkins (Supervisor) & Andreja Zevnik (Supervisor)


  • Memory
  • Resistance
  • Solidarity
  • Wounded bodies
  • Timor-Leste
  • Affect

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