The magic of the flag: Timorese islanders and the Portuguese empire in the Indonesian Archipelago

Public lecture by Ricardo Roque at «Anthropologie à Nanterre», seminar of the Laboratoire d’ethnologie et de sociologie comparative with the Département d’anthropologie de l’université Paris Nanterre. April 16, 2019.

This paper approaches the long history of the Portuguese empire in the Asia-Pacific world through a micro-history of a colonial object: national flags. It analyses the ‘fantastic stories’ told by Europeans about the Indigenous cultural appropriations of Portuguese flags in East Timor, with a view to discuss the complex exchanges between Indigenous people and European objects from overseas. Theoretically and historiographically, it is also a purpose of this essay to consider these stories on the agency of flags in relation to the influential arguments concerning totems and national flags, put forward by sociologist Émile Durkheim in his Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse, of 1912.

This project is funded by FCT (PTDC/HAR- HIS/28577/2017)

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