Lisa Palmer

Lisa Palmer teaches and researches on indigenous environmental knowledge and practices at the University of Melbourne. She lives in Melbourne and regularly travels to Timor-Leste to carry out research and visit extended family. She has published widely and is the author of an ethnography on people’s complex relations with water in Timor-Leste titled Water Politics and Spiritual Ecology: Custom, Environmental Governance and Development (2015, Routledge). Working also through visual methods she has directed two films, Wild Honey: Caring for Bees in a Divided Land and Holding Tightly: Custom and Healing in Timor-Leste.

orcid https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3571-5404

Island Encounters »

Timor-Leste from the outside in

Authored by: Lisa Palmer
Publication date: 2021
Island Encounters is a narrative of Timor shaped by a journey from the outside in. Incorporating the author’s experiences from more than two decades of involvement with Timor-Leste and, more particularly, the months she spent travelling with her family from west to east in 2018, Palmer traces paths redolent in longing and learning, belonging and bewilderment, courage and conviction to tell of an island divided by colonialism and conflict. The book’s themes shuttle back and forth across the island, weaving together the past, present and future in deeply felt histories and personal stories that create the shared fabric of Timorese people’s lives. Offering a counterpoint to modernising development narratives, Island Encounters tells of people’s quiet determination to maintain their relationships between their lands, waters, traditions and each other. By foregrounding the ways in which ancestral pathways and cultural politics inform and course through everyday life on island Timor, Palmer reveals the richness of the rituals and customary practices that underpin Timorese lives and the lives of those entwined with them. And, all along the way, Island Encounters shows how Timor and its diverse peoples are working with, and re-working, confounding and being confounded by, the ever-desirous heart of development. ‘A poignant, at times heart-wrenching, honest account of life in Timor-Leste.’ — José Ramos-Horta ‘Island Encounters is a shimmery blend of anthropology, memoir and reportage. Palmer journeys her way across the island of Timor and uncovers human stories of pasts not yet passed and of an uncertain present. Island Encounters will be the definitive contemporary explainer of why things work the way they do on both sides of the border, in West Timor and Timor-Leste. Not only is Palmer a deeply knowledgeable scholar, she is an absolute dream of a writer.’ — Gordon Peake, author of Beloved Land: Stories, Struggles, and Secrets from Timor-Leste ‘Palmer is the best kind of insider-outsider to translate a culture from the inside so outsiders can understand. Living with Timorese family, Palmer has had access to levels of cultural knowledge not usually shared with outsiders and she takes readers on a journey into the Timorese psyche. Island Encounters is a great intellectual gift to everyone wanting to better understand the complex new nation of Timor-Leste.’ — Sara Niner, author of Xanana: Leader of the Struggle for Independent Timor-Leste

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