Cultural identity : taboos in rituals in Makasae speech community of Timor-Leste

  • Prudencio da Silva

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The purpose of the study is to understand and document the belief system and ritual practices of the Makasae people. In order to understand the Makasae belief system, the study explores taboos in traditional ritual practices. The thesis documents the purpose of taboo in rituals, the cultural and linguistic resources within Makasae that form part of taboo observance, and it describes the ways these resources are used to express taboo, and strengthen the cultural identity of the Makasae speech community. The study employs ethnographic qualitative methodology using participant observation and semi-structured interview methods for data collection. Hymes’s (1972) ethnographic concept of S-P-E-A-K-I-N-G is used to describe and analyze data as a means of understanding the belief system and ritual practices. This is a first attempt to study this particular subject in this speech community. The findings of the study show that taboo rests not only with behaviour, but also sacred houses and sacred places, sacred objects and food and also language. Taboo observances are at the heart of ritual practices in Makasae. Ritual practices reflect the seasons, harvest times and natural life cycle in the Makasae speech community. Ritual practices are a central element of cultural life as community members show respect for the ancestors and reaffirm the clan’s and community’s cultural identity.
    Date of Award2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDeborah Hill (Supervisor), Jeremy Jones (Supervisor) & Kate Wilson (Supervisor)

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