The Spirit of Rebellion: National Heroes, Dom Boaventura, and Personifying National Identity

  • Catherine E. ArthurEmail author
Part of the Rethinking Peace and Conflict Studies book series (RCS)


This chapter explores the role of national heroes in constructing and representing national identity. It builds on scholarship on nationalism and identity symbols to demonstrate how hero-figures perform similar functions to symbols in identity formation and imaginings. In times of political uncertainty, difficulty, or flux, national heroes are sought after for leadership and inspiration, and have the potential to unite a diverse national community under a common identity and shared values. Dom Boaventura is an undisputed national hero in Timor-Leste and the focus of analysis is the (re)construction and (re)presentation of this hero-figures in state narratives as the embodiment of the national character; of funu (struggle), strength, and an indigenous, ethno-cultural heritage. Considering this, the chapter examines how Dom Boaventura’s symbolic capital has been appropriated and mobilised by political actors at both the state and grassroots levels in order to draw on his legitimacy and authority, and to gain popular support.


Nationalism National heroes Liberation struggle Dom Boaventura Symbolic capital Indigenous cosmology 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queen’s University BelfastBelfastUK

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