How has anthropology changed over the years? Join us as we talk to husband and wife team David and Maxine Hicks who visited what was then Portuguese Timor during the mid-1960s when David was doing fieldwork for his PhD in Anthropology. David and Maxine have been witness to Timor’s turbulent past, including Timor’s independence from Portugal during the 1970s, the subsequent military occupation by Indonesia for 24 years, and David’s first-hand account of the bloody vote for independence in 1999.

In this podcast episode, we talk about David and Maxine’s experience in Timor over the past 5 decades, what it was like doing fieldwork with a little baby in the 1960s, and also about anthropology and how it’s changed over the decades and what this might mean for development research and practice.

Listen to David and Maxine talk about:

  • What it was like for David when he first arrived in what was then Portuguese Timor to do his fieldwork [2:27]
  • What it was like for Maxine as the wife of an anthropologist to live in a third world country with a 6-week old baby while supporting her husband [3:28]
  • The secrecy of the Timorese society then, and how the couple was perceived as one of the very few Europeans in a Timorese village and what this meant for their work [6:06]
  • David’s work with The Carter Center to monitor democratic processes in Timor, and the political violence in 1999 [9:14]
  • The situation of women in Timor in the 1960s vs now [17:05]
  • How anthropology has changed over the decades and its recent interplay with sociology, political science, history and literature [19:24]
  • The relationship between academic research and development research done by NGOs and international organizations [27:07]
  • Finding a middle ground between bottom-up and top-down development [28:43]



David Hicks is a social anthropologist. He received his two doctorates from the University of Oxford and the University of London based on two dissertations (one on social organization and the other on ritual and belief) resulting from field research he carried out with his wife, Maxine, in Timor-Leste, a country that at the time (in 1966-1967) was known as “Portuguese Timor”. His interests are in the politics, kinship systems, oral literatures, and ritual life of the people living in Timor-Leste as well as in neighboring Indonesia, where he has also carried out field research, on the island of Flores. He has written five books, Tetum Ghosts and Kin, Structural Analysis in Anthropology, A Maternal Religion, Kinship and Religion in Eastern Indonesia, and (with Margaret A. Gwynne) Cultural Anthropology. He has also edited another book, Ritual and Belief: Readings in the Anthropology of Religion, and additionally has published articles in the American Anthropologist, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society, various other professional journals, and several anthropological anthologies. He has received research grants from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the United States Institute of Peace, the American Philosophical Society, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. In 1997 he was a resident scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation Center at Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio in Italy and in 2004-2005 he received a Fulbright Award to carry out field research and teach in the National University in East Timor. In 2005 The State University of New York and Stony Brook University conferred upon him both the Chancellor’s and the President’s Award For Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.


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Host: Deborah Cummins   



Host company: Bridging Peoples

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