Writing the Resistance: Literacy in East Timor 1975-1999


Estêvão Cabral, Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
Marilyn Martin-Jones, School of Education, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Volume 11 no 2 pp149-169


This paper provides an account of the ways in which literacy, in different languages, was embedded in the East Timorese struggle against the Indonesian invasion and subsequent occupation, from 1975 to 1999. Our account is primarily historiographical in nature and is based on a corpus of written texts gathered during four phases of the struggle, on photographs of people ‘writing the Resistance’, on published resources, on Estêvão Cabral’s own historical account of the Resistance and on his direct observation of literacy practices on three broad fronts: the armed, the clandestine and the diplomatic front. We describe the ways in which literacy mediated the struggle on each of these fronts. We also document the diverse and multilingual nature of the literacies associated with the political work of the Resistance and the values generated through the use of different languages for the production of particular kind of texts. We take account of texts produced and circulated within the Resistance and those produced for a wider audience. In addition, we chart the changes in literacy practices ushered in by the advent of new technologies and, at the same time, by the changing political, economic and cultural conditions of the struggle.

doi: 10.2167/beb491.0

Keywords: East Timor, literacy, multilingualism, new technology, political
resistance, textual practices


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