The Co-presence of Ancestors and Their Reburials among the Fataluku (Timor-Leste)
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De Matos Viegas, Susana
This article analyzes the key role of graves and reburials (i.e., the relocation of a grave to a new site, or its refurbishment) in making ancestors present in the lives of the Fataluku Timorese. The living include and experience their deceased relatives in their present-day web of kin, both through dreams and rituals. The author shows that such close attention given by living relatives to their ancestors is sustained in a relationship of mutual care that makes ancestors co-present in their descendants’ lives. By focusing on family members’ challenges in attending ancestor worship rituals as well as on reburial processes that involve diverse forms of communication with the ancestors, the article illustrates how reburials contribute to the balance between the spiritual world and the world of the living (for example, to avoid misfortune). The author uses “co-presence” as a key description of how the Timorese deal with and include ancestors in their everyday lives. This co-presence can be envisaged as “mutuality of being”—kinship in the strict sense of the word. It also describes the balance between the spirit and living worlds. Through their graves, ancestors make themselves present through specific sites. The Timor-Leste government’s favorable policies concerning martyrs’ burials can thus be considered a post-conflict measure that achieves balance between the lived and the spiritual world, a balance that allows life to go on.
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Page range: 55-73
Cornell University Southeast Asia Program