This section offers brief information on the team members’ books that especially bear on the topics and approaches of the current project. Links for further details on each of the works are also provided.

ROQUE, Ricardo. 2010. Headhunting and Colonialism: Anthropology and the Circulation of Human Skulls in the Portuguese Empire, 1870-1930. Basingstoke, Cambridge Imperial and Postcolonial Studies: Palgrave Macmillan.

Headhunting and Colonialism is an account of colonial violence, indigenous headhunting and the circulation of human skulls to anthropological museums in the heyday of late European imperialism. Using the example of the Portuguese colony of East Timor, it embeds the history of a museum collection of human skulls within the larger context of the Portuguese imperial expansion, emergence of scientific anthropology in Europe, Christian beliefs about the dead body, and indigenous cultures. The book examines how human skulls were critical to imperial power and indigenous communities, and traces how they could be collected, exchanged, circulated, studied, and interpreted in colonial, scientific, and metropolitan contexts. By combining imperial history with historical anthropology and the history of science, it brings out a fresh reappraisal of colonial interactions as mutually parasitic, and a novel framework for understanding the social life of collections as attachments between things and histories.


  • Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
  • Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa
  • Associated research projects

  • Associated research projects

Exploring Colonial Anthropologies

  • The presence of the Portuguese in Timor, a small island at the end of the Lesser Sunda Islands chain, dates from the mid-sixteenth century. For the next 250 years, Portuguese Catholic missionaries, soldiers, traders, officials, governors, scientists, and military became regular company of the Timorese populations. First based in Lifau (Oecusse), and since 1769 based in Dilly, the Portuguese claimed sovereignty and exercised colonial government over the Eastern half of the island. Today’s nation Republic of Timor-Leste, went by the name of ‘Portuguese Timor’, a colonial province of Portugal, until the Indonesian occupation in 1975. Throughout this long colonial period a great and rich variety of published and unpublished documents was produced by colonial agents.

    From manuscript letters to administrative reports, travelogues, journal articles, or book-length texts, the Portuguese colonial archives offer an abundant field of important material about the past and present of the bodies, languages, and cultures of Timor-Leste peoples. It is this varied and complex colonial material on the history and anthropology of Timor that this research project aims at revealing, exploring, and critically analyze.

    In engaging with these archives, we are concerned not just with how they illuminate former anthropological understandings and colonial encounters between Indigenous and Europeans; we also aim at exploring how they shape current understandings and might help the creation of a post-colonial moment for the history and anthropology of Timor-Leste.

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