Authors Name: 
Tracy O'Connor
University: 
Queen's University Belfast
Category: 
Languages & Linguistics
Award winner

To what extent can the poetry of Borja da Costa be seen as promoting the idea of a common national identity? Support your argument with relevant textual evidence.

A key component of the strategy of the East Timorese liberation movement, FRETLIN, in the struggle for independence from Portuguese colonization was the raising of awareness in the population, both of their subjugated status and of the necessity to unite in opposition to that status in order to assume control of East Timor. Despite the territory being, in fact, an artificial construct resulting from the division of the island of Timor by two competing colonizing forces, the image of a single nation was combined with that of a common identity which would create a bond between its people in common cause against the colonizer. As Secretary for Information of FRETILIN’s Central Committee, Borja da Costa played a fundamental role in implementing this strategy through his poetry, which emphasised the shared elements of East Timorese culture and acted as a call to arms against Portugal. This role was cut short by his assassination by Indonesian forces invading East Timor on 7th December 1975, nine days after FRETILIN formally declared the independence of the Democratic Republic of East Timor. Working from Benedict Anderson’s definition of national identity, this essay interrogates the extent to which de Costa was successful in his aims, while calling attention to the way in which he falls victim to the danger inherent to all resistance movemnets of attempting to replace one hegemonic discourse with another.