Webs of Legitimacy and Discredit: Narrative Capital and Politics of Ritual in a Timor-Leste Community

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This article explores the interconnections among origin narratives, migration patterns and ritual authority in a Timor-Leste community. By recognising the dimension of rituals as sources of power, we analyse the different ways social actors negotiate their position in social space by either supporting or contesting the legitimacy of the ritual leaders. We suggest how, in a context with historical levels of high migration and immersed in rapid social change, precedence is not only challenged by modern ideals around individual rights and choices, but by the re-interpretation of mythical narratives and the access to ritual performance. The paper provides a discussion of the notion of narrative capital and shows how subordinated classes resulting from development policies from past state regimes articulate new forms of social mobility in the contemporary context of rural Timor-Leste.
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