Past Continuous: Rethinking Colonial History

First Nusantara School of Difference, July 27-August 9, 2017

The first Nusantara School of Difference (NSD) will explore the shifting boundaries of collective identities, majority-minority relations, religious belonging, and political affiliations in one of the poorest regions of Indonesia, that of the Timor. Addressing issues as diverse as the state of the East Timorese in Kupang, intra-Christian tensions, Christian-Muslim relations, and the changing nature of minority groups, the school will focus on how the colonial heritage continues to shape the present.

Between the Indian and South Pacific Oceans, Timor and the Timor Sea have been areas especially open to foreign influence, control, and contestation. In the 17th  century  Dutch (Protestants) and Portuguese (Catholics)  struggled for domination over the islands. Foreign influences — Chinese from the 12th century, Europeans from the mid-17th century, Islam from the 16th to 18th and more recently still, American Pentecostalism — have all woven a rich and often contradictory, tension-filled legacy as they layered over indigenous beliefs, kinship systems, traditional obligations, and ways of life.

It is against this backdrop that the 2017 NSD, will convene an engaging two-week experiential school aimed at understanding the impact of these historical forces on current ways of thinking and acting (including social segregation, religious contestation, and inter-ethnic division). The NSD works to understand and overcome the different types of social segregation and the legacy of past violence that have so often characterized relations between different communities in the region.

The NSD is an affiliate of CEDAR, whose programs combine pluralistic perspectives on religious thought with social scientific research on tolerance and civil society and an open, dialogic, approach to pedagogic practice. Its goal is to transform both the theoretical models and concrete practices through which religious orientations and secular models of politics and society engage one another. As with other CEDAR affiliates, the NSD program combines academic courses with intensive group-building processes and the construction of working relationships across religious and ethnic identities. Its didactic goals are both social and cognitive.

February 28, 2017, is the deadline for receiving applications. All application material – found here – and questions should be sent to

The NSD is a CEDAR affiliate program working in collaboration with the Institute of Resource Governance and Social Change.