Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Some Random Thoughts on Elections and My Research

It's been too long since I posted something he;postID=8213756244146735800re.

It's been a busy time since I got back from my 'holiday' in Bali. Wasn't much of a break; wasn't long enough to really have a chance to unwind and relax properly. Wish I could have taken another week. Time and financial restraints made this pretty much unfeasible. Sigh. Only two months to go before I come back. Gone so quickly.

I've spent most of my time doing research for, and entering the data into, a website that will serve as an online database on the various layers of leadership in Timor-Leste. It's called the Global Leadership Project. It hasn't been launched yet, I think it will be accessible to the public near the end of June or early July, I'll let you know. The first task was to get population data - thanks to the CIA World Factbook - and then break it down into several categories. These included: language, ethnicity, religion, and ethnocultural groups. The tricky part were the language and ethnocultural groups.

At last count I think I identified 19 distinct language groups in Timor-Leste. Some are quite small, some fit quite closely into the existing district structure, while some cross over many districts. The easy bit was transferring the data from the language groups to the ethnocultural groups; they are essentially the same thing. This was because I was able to define the ethnocultural categories based on language and ethnicity. The tricky bit was going through the 2010 national census and identify the numbers of people who speak each of the respective languages as their 'mother tongue', then work out, as a percentage, the presence of each of these groups at a national level. Once I worked the numbers out, I had all the facts I needed for both the language and ethnocultural groups.

The other bit that was challenging was ethnicity. Timor-Leste is a melting pot, from an 'ethnic' perspective, of predominately Austronesian (Poly-Malaysian) and Non-Austronesian (Papuan-Melanesian) influences. It felt rather arbitrary and a bit misleading to separate and disaggregate the current population into these two categories and attempt to give each a number for statistical purposes. The presence of Austronesian influences has been here for over 3000 years, non-Austronesian for even longer. There has been a lot of interaction and 'intermingling' between the two 'ethnicities' and differentiating them into distinct categories felt weird, disingenuous and a little neo-colonial. Despite these reservations I was resolved to complete the project. I addressed the matter of accounting for the relative size of each group, Austronesian and non-Austronesian, by first identifying which language group belonged to which ethnicity. Four of the language groups in Timor-Leste are recorded as Papuan: Bunaq, Fataluku, Makassai and Makalero. Again I went to the 2010 Census and added up the numbers, aggregating those whose mother tongue falls into the Papuan language group. The same was done for the remaining languages, which belong to the Poly-Malaysian language family. Admittedly this is very rough and a little dodgy but it was the only was I figured it could be done. Hopefully it gives a vaguely accurate picture of the 'ethnic' makeup of Tiimor-Leste.

Having completed this, I began entering details of all the politically influential people here. Details ranged from date of birth, education, language, ethnocultural identity, offices held in parliament and political allegiances. There are a lot of variables to take into account for the final analysis and I look forward to seeing it finalised. 

I'm going to take a break but I hope to write some more soon, weekend by the latest.

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