Causing offence in Indonesia
: a Timorese case study

  • David Hamilton Odling-Smee

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    The Timorese people of eastern Indonesia live as close neighbours to Australians, particularly residents of northern Australia. However, cultures of South-East Asia, extending through the Indonesian archipelago, confront a deep divide - geographic, historic and cultural - between Timor and Australia. There is a cultural 'Timor Gap' which has divided residents on both sides into mutually ignorant camps. How can the gap be bridged? This research focuses on ways that Australians can increase their understanding of Timorese through a greater knowledge of Timorese cultural behaviours. It seeks to discover the points of greatest opposition between Timorese and Australian cultural behaviours. Data from Timorese interviewees, resident in Timor but familiar with Australians, produced a register of Australian behaviours, listed in order of offensiveness. They covered five categories of behaviour: intolerable, offensive, distancing, neutral, admirable. One finding indicated that, out of 97 Australian behaviours, 30 are described as 'distancing' behaviours, which, whilst not offensive, prevent fluency, friendship and intimacy between Australians and Timorese. The key finding of the research, however, highlights 27 behaviours which are intolerable and offensive to Timorese - the so-called 'worst' behaviours. These behaviours indicate the points of sharpest contradiction between Timorese and Australian cultural behaviours, and in so doing, highlight those values and rules which the Timorese hold most tightly. Australians are thus better equipped to understand and study Timorese cultural motivations, and so help build one pillar of understanding across the 'Timor Gap'.
    Date of AwardJan 1994
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBrian Devlin (Supervisor)

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