Participatory Theater, Is It Really? A Critical Examination of Practices in Timor-Leste


  • Julia Scharinger



Development Cooperation, Empowerment, Participatory Theater, Social Change, Timor- Leste


Dance, music, and oral narratives are an important and vibrant part of cultural practice and heritage in Timor-Leste. But while Timorese people have used such creative methods and processes during rituals, celebrations, and their fi ght for independence, today arts and artistic expression become an increasingly popular strategy in development cooperation. Especially diff erent forms of so-called participatory theater with origins in development cooperation, arts, and social movements, present themselves as innovative, participatory, and well applicable in terms of capacity building and stimulating positive social transformation. Based on the author’s experience and observations, this article critically examines the alliance between various stakeholders in Timor-Leste engaging with the fact that the current scene of participatory theater can hardly be seen as an independent grassroots or even social movement, rather than an initiated top-down process by donors with specifi c agendas.

Author Biography

Julia Scharinger

Julia Scharinger earned a Master degree in Political Science at the University of Vienna and is currently finishing her Master degree in International Development Studies at the same university. Scharinger functions as Vice-President of Theatre of the Oppressed – Vienna and as International Early Childhood Education Advisor for a local NGO in Timor-Leste. Contact:






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