Some of the more interesting and useful work on diasporic
and transnational identities has emanated from scholars working in
cultural studies and contemporary anthropology. However, with a
few notable exceptions, little attention has been paid to the specific
experiences of refugee diasporas, and in particular, to the role of
trauma and embodiment in the creation of these ‘moral communities.’
Based on research with the East Timorese diaspora in Australia,
this article looks at the performative dimensions (protests,
church rituals, singing, and dancing) of the diaspora’s political campaign
for East Timor’s independence. I consider how the bodily
dimensions of this protest movement contributed to certain formations
of identity, belonging, and exile, within the Timorese community.
In particular, I explore how these performative strategies have
created a context for ‘retraumatizing’ bodies and memories, channeling
them into a political ‘community of suffering,’ in turn contributing
to a heightened sense of the morality of an exilic identity among many Timorese.