Professor Andrew McWilliam


Andrew McWilliam is Professor of Anthropology in the School of Social Science at Western Sydney University. He is a specialist in the anthropology of Insular Southeast Asia with ethnographic interests in eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste as well as Northern Australia. His research focuses on the multi-dimensional aspects of rural livelihoods and adaptive traditions in the context of globalization and the pluralist embrace of religious faith practice. In addition to academic research, he has also pursued a range of diverse applied anthropology projects in Indonesia and Timor-Leste including forestry management, upland agriculture and food security and the extractive resource sector in Indonesia, esp. mining, oil and gas.  He has undertaken varying periods of fieldwork in Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Maluku, & West Papua.  In Northern Australia he focuses on Australian Aboriginal land claims, native title connections reports and Indigenous cultural heritage management.

Dr McWilliam is Discipline Lead for Anthropology at Western Sydney University, and Editor in Chief for The Australian Journal of Anthropology (TAJA 2019-present). He has held visiting academic appointments in Southeast Asian Studies (Cornell 2007), the Agrarian Studies Program (Yale 2010), the Centre for Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford (2014), and most recently in the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), Kyoto University (2019) and University of Stockholm (2020).

Grants and Current Projects

I have finalised a collaborative project entitled, Household Vulnerability and the Politics of Social Protection in Indonesia (2014-2019) that has been exploring the impact and effectiveness of Indonesian welfare policy and programs designed to target and alleviate poverty across the archipelago. My field research for this activity focused on several Sama Bajo (maritime oriented) communities in Southeast Sulawesi. A comparative edited volume is currently in preparation.  A second ARC research project (with Lisa Palmer Uni Melb), entitled, Spiritual Ecologies and the role of Customary Governance in Timor-Leste (2016-2020) builds on earlier ethnographic work to examine the dynamics of a widespread ‘return to custom’ that connects the everyday practices of ancestral house communities with the complex ecologies upon which people's livelihoods and well-being depend.

In 2020 I am also pursuing two contract research activities. The first continues preparation of a Native Title claim on behalf of claimants over Bradshaw (FTA) and Wombungi PL in the Northern Territory. The second activity is Covid 19 Impact Assessment of Timor-Leste, as part of a broader study commissioned by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) developing comparative analyses of impacts (health and economic) across the Asia Pacific Region.

Current Grants

Spiritual Ecologies and the role of Customary Governance in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste, with Lisa Palmer (Unimelb) ARC DP160104519 (2016-2022).

Labour migration to Australia, remittances and the wellbeing in Timor-Leste, with Udoy Saikia, and Susanne Schech ARC Linkage,LP190101013 (2021-2024).

Contract Research
Bradshaw FTA and Wombungi PL Native Title Connection Report
, on behalf of Claimants, with John Laurence. Project undertaken under the auspices of the Northern Land Council (NLC) NT Australia.


Authored Books

McWilliam A.R. (2020) Post-Conflict Social and Economic Recovery in Timor-Leste: Redemptive Legacies, London, New York: Routledge

Fitzpatrick D, McWilliam A, and S Barnes, (2012) Property and Social Resilience in Times of Conflict: Land, Custom and Law in East Timor, United Kingdom: Ashgate Press

McWilliam A.R. (2002) Paths of Origin, Gates of Life: a study of place and precedence in Southwest Timor, Leiden: KITLV Press.


McWilliam A.R. (2020) Post-Conflict Social and Economic Recovery in Timor-Leste: Redemptive Legacies, London, New York: Routledge

Edited Volumes

McCarthy, JF, AR McWilliam and G Nooteboom (eds.) 2022 The Paradox of Agrarian Change: Food Security and the Politics of Social Protection in Indonesia, Singapore, Chicago: NUS Press. [in press]

O’Connor S. A.McWilliam and S Brockwell (eds.) 2020 Forts and fortification in Wallacea: Archaeology and ethnohistoric investigations, Terra Australis Series No.53. Canberra: ANU Press.

McWilliam A.R and M Leach (eds.) 2019 The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Timor-Leste, London UK: Routledge

Ingram S., Kent L., A.R. McWilliam and (eds) 2015 A New Era? Timor-Leste after the UN.  Canberra: ANU Press

McWilliam A and E.G Traube (eds) (2011) Land and Life in Timor- Leste: Ethnographic Essays, Canberra, ANU E-Press.

Fox, James J and McWilliam A.R. (eds) (2007) Traditional Justice in Timor, Special Issue, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 8(1).

Book Chapters.

McWilliam A.R 2020 ‘Being Muslim in Eastern Indonesia:  contemporary patterns of Islamic Practice’. In Robinson K. R. (ed.) Mosques & Imams: Everyday Islam in eastern Indonesia, pp175-187, Singapore: NUS Press.

McWilliam A.R. and C. Shepherd 2019 ‘Reading Against the Grain: Ethnography, Commercial agriculture and the Colonial archive’ in Roque R. and E.G. Traube (eds), Crossing Histories and Ethnographies: anthropology and the colonial archive in East Timor. 266-293. New York, London: Berghahn Press.

McWilliam A.R. and M Leach 2019 ‘Timor-Leste: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Challenges’, The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Timor Leste, in McWilliam A.R. and M Leach (eds). 1-25, Oxon: Routledge.

McWilliam A.R. and Carmeneza Dos Santos Monteiro 2019 ‘On Brexit Worries: Migration and Remittance Landscapes in Timor-Leste’, in The Routledge Handbook on Contemporary Timor-Leste, McWilliam A.R. and M Leach (eds), 136-146 Oxon: Routledge.

McWilliam A.R. 2018 ‘Afterword: A study in contrasts’, in The Promise of Prosperity: Visions of the future in Timor-Leste after Independence, pp 243-253, J Bovensiepen (ed), SSGM Monographs, Canberra: ANU Press.

McWilliam A.R. and C. Shepherd 2018; forthcoming. ‘Reading Against the Grain: Ethnography, Commercial agriculture and the Colonial archive’ in Roque R and E.G. Traube (eds), Crossing Histories and Ethnographies: anthropology and the colonial archive in East Timor. New York, London: Berghahn Press.

Beavis S and A.R. McWilliam 2018 ‘Muddy Rivers and Toxic Flows: Risks and Impacts of Artisanal Gold Mining in the Riverine Catchments of Bombana, Southeast Sulawesi (Indonesia)’.  In, Lahiri-Dutt, K (ed.) Between the Plough and the Pick: Informal, Artisnal and Small-Scale Mining in the Contemporary World, pp 295-310, Canberra: ANU Press

McWilliam A.R. 2017 ‘Hunting and Harvesting the Commons: On the cultural politics of custom in East Timor’, in S de Matos Viegas and Rui G Feijo (eds.), Transformations in Independent Timor-Leste: Dynamics of Social and Cultural Cohabitations. Routledge: London, New York, pp61-78.

McWilliam A.R. 2017 ‘Imagining Ethnography: Reflections on Fieldwork in Lautem’, in Bexley A, and M. Nygaad-Christensen (eds), Fieldwork in Timor-Leste, Understanding Social Change through Practice, NIAS Press, Copenhagen, pp80-98.

Ingram S, L. Kent and A.R. McWilliam (eds) 2015 ‘Introduction: Building the Nation: Legacies and Challenges for Timor Leste’, in Ingram S, Kent. L, and A.R. McWilliam (eds), A New Era? Timor-Leste After the UN, SSGM Series, Canberra: ANU Press pp 1-14.

McWilliam A.R. 2015 ‘Rural-Urban Inequalities and Migration in Timor-Leste’, in Ingram S, Kent. L, and A.R. McWilliam (eds), A New Era? Timor-Leste After the UN, Canberra: ANU Press, pp 225-234.

McWilliam A R, M Lopes, D. Glazebrook, A. Ximenes and M De Jesus Da Costa, 2015 ‘Seeds of Life: Social research for improved farmer yields in East Timor’, in S Price and K Robinson (eds) Making a Difference? Social Assessment Policy and Praxis and its Emergence in China, Berghahn Books, pp 126-143.

Robinson, K and A McWilliam 2015 ‘Unpacking Community Development in Ausaid (1995-2005)’, in S. Price and K. Robinson (eds), Making a Difference? Social Assessment Policy and Praxis and its Emergence in China, Berghahn Books, pp 103-125.

Shepherd C.J. and McWilliam A, 2014 ‘Divide and Cultivate: plantations, militarism and environment in Portuguese Timor, 1860-1975’. In F. Uekoetter, ed. Comparing Apples, Oranges, and Cotton: Environmental Histories of the Global Plantation. Campus Verlag: Frankfurt, & New York, pp 139-166.

McWilliam A, 2013 ‘Cultural Heritage and its Performative Modalities: Imagining the Nino Konis Santana National Park, East Timor’, In, Transcending the Culture-Nature Divide in Cultural Heritage: Views from the Asia-Pacific Region, S. Brockwell S. O'Connor, and D. Byrne (eds). Terra Australis No. 36 ANU E Press, Canberra, pp 191-201.

McWilliam A. and E.G Traube 2011 ‘Introduction: Land and Life in Timor Leste’, in A McWilliam and E.G. Traube (eds), Land and Life in Timor Leste: Ethnographic Essays. Canberra: ANU E-Press, pp 1-24.

McWilliam A.  ‘Fataluku Living Landscapes’, 2011 in A McWilliam and E.G. Traube (eds) Land and Life in Timor Leste: Ethnographic Essays. Canberra: ANU E-Press, pp 61-86.

McWilliam A. 2009 ‘Trunk and Tip in West Timor: Precedence in a botanical idiom’, in M.P Vischer (ed), Precedence, Processes of Social Differentiation in the Austronesian World, Canberra: ANU E-Press, pp 111-132.

McWilliam A. ‘Customary Governance East Timor,’ 2008 in D Mearns (ed), Democratic Governance in Timor Leste: Reconciling the Local and the National, Darwin: Charles Darwin University Press. pp 129-142.

McWilliam A. ‘East and West in Timor Leste: Is there an Ethnic Divide’? 2007 in D. Shoesmith (ed), Crisis in Timor Leste: Understanding the Past, Imagining the Future. Darwin, Charles Darwin University Press, pp 35-44.

McWilliam A. R. 2007 ‘Customary Claims and the Public Interest: On Fataluku Resource Entitlements in Lautem’, in Damien Kingsbury and Michael Leach (eds), East Timor: Beyond Independence. Melbourne: Monash Asia Institute Press. pp. 168-75.

McWilliam A.R. 2006 ’Fataluku forest tenures and the Conis Santana National Park (East Timor)’, In Thomas Reuter (ed), Sharing the Earth, Dividing the Land: Territorial Categories and Institutions in the Austronesian World. Canberra: ANU E-Press, pp 253-75.

McWilliam A. 2005 ‘Absence and plenitude: Appropriating the Fitzmaurice River frontier’.  In, Richard Davis and Deborah B. Rose (eds), Dislocating the Frontier: Essaying the mystique of the outback. Canberra: ANU E-Press, pp 175-93.

Refereed Journal Articles

McWilliam A., R, Wasson, J. Rouwenhorst and A. Amaral 2020 ‘Disaster Risk Reduction, Modern science and Local Knowledge: perspectives from Timor-Leste’ International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction (IJDRR), 50: 1-10

McWilliam A. 2020 Review of Christopher Shepherd, Haunted Houses and Ghostly Encounters: Ethnography and Animism in East Timor 1860-1975, Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, Anthropos 115: 278-279.

Palmer L and A.R. McWilliam 2019 ‘Spirit Ecologies and Customary Governance in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste’, Bijdragen Tot de Taal Land –en Volkenkunde (BKI)Vol 175(4) 474-505.

McWilliam A.R. and C. Ds. Monteiro 2019 ‘Fataluku Labor Migration and Transnational Care in Timor-Leste,’ Indonesia, No109 (1) 41-54.

McWilliam A.R. 2019 ‘Stone Archives and Fortified Histories in Timor-Leste,’ The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology (TAPJA), Vol 39(1) 247-260.

McWilliam A.R. 2019 ‘Nationalism at Scale: Between Rai Na’in and Rai Timor in Timor Leste’. Bulletin for the National Museum of Ethnology Vol 43(3) 301-315.

Palmer L and A.R. McWilliam 2018; forthcoming. ‘Ambivalent Indigeneities in Independent Timor-Leste: Between customary and national governance of resources,’ Asia Pacific Viewpoint Vol 59 (3).

Gibson K et al. 2018 ‘Community Economies in Monsoon Asia: Keywords and Key Reflections’, Asia Pacific Viewpoint, Vol 59 (1) 3-16. ISSN 1360-7456

Steenbergen D, J. Clifton, L Visser, N Stacey and A. McWilliam 2017 ‘Understanding contemporary influences in policy landscapes for Sustainable Coastal Livelihoods’, Marine Policy 82: 181-188.

McWilliam, A & Neale, J 2015, ‘Reflections on a Native Title Anthropology Field School’. AIATSIS Discussion Paper No.36, pp 1-25, Canberra.

McWilliam A.R., L Palmer and C Shepherd 2014 ‘Lulik Encounters and Cultural Frictions in East Timor: past and present’, The Australian Journal of Anthropology (TAJA) Vol 25 (3): 304–320.

Shepherd, C.J and McWilliam A.R. 2013 ‘Cultivating plantations and subjects in East Timor: a genealogy’, Bijdragen Tot de Taal Land –en Volkenkunde (BKI) 169: 326-361.

Fitzpatrick D and McWilliam A, 2013 ‘Bright-Line Fever: Simple Legal Rules and Complex Property Customs among the Fataluku of East Timor,’ Law and Society Review Vol 47 (2): 311-343.

McWilliam A. 2012 ‘New Fataluku Diasporas and landscapes of remittance and return’, Special Issue, Nation-Formation, Identity and Change in Timor-Leste, Local-Global: Identity, Security, Community, vol. 11: 72-85.

O’Connor S. McWilliam A, Fenner J and S Brockwell, 2012 ‘Examining the Origin of Fortifications in East Timor: Social and Environmental Factors’, Journal of Island & Coastal Archaeology, 7: 1–18,

McWilliam A. Bulbeck D., Brockwell S. and S. O’Connor 2012 ‘The Cultural Legacy of Makassar Stone in East Timor’, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 13 (3): 262-179.

McWilliam A. 2011 ‘Marginal Governance in the Time of Pemekaran: Case Studies from Sulawesi and West Papua’, in Erb, M and Brauchler B. [eds] Special Issue:  Eastern Indonesian Under Reform: New Approaches, New Topics, Asian Journal of Social Sciences Vol 39 (2): 150-170.

McWilliam A. 2011 ‘Exchange and Resilience in Timor-Leste’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI) Vol 17: 745-763

Shepherd C.J. and McWilliam A.R 2011 ‘Ethnography, Agency, and Materiality: anthropological perspectives on rice development in East Timor’, East Asia Science and Technology Studies (EASTS), Special Issue Volume 5 (2): 189-215.

McWilliam A.R. 2010 ‘Comment’: on Mobilizing Local Knowledge and Asserting Culture: The cultural politics of in-situ Conservation of Agricultural Biodiversity (Chris Shepherd), Cultural Anthropology. 51 (5): 648-649.

McWilliam A. ‘The spiritual commons: some immaterial aspects of community economies in eastern Indonesia’, 2009, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 20 (2): 163-177.

McWilliam A.R. 2009  ‘Improving Food Security in East Timor’ Asian Currents, ASAA E-Bulletin July 2009.

McWilliam A. 2008 ‘Fataluku Healing and Cultural Resilience in East Timor’, Ethnos 73 (2): 217-240.

McWilliam A and Bexley A, 2008 ‘Performing Politics: The 2007 Parliamentary Elections in Timor Leste’, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 9 (1): 66-82.

Fitzpatrick D. McWilliam A and Barnes S., 2008 ‘Policy Notes on Customary Land in East Timor’.  East Timor Law Journal, Online Journal: November,

McWilliam A.R. 2008  ‘Customary Land and Legal Regulation in East Timor’, Southeast Asia Program Bulletin, Fall Issue, Cornell University, pp 26-31.

McWilliam A.R. 2007  ‘Austronesians in Linguistic Disguise: Fataluku cultural fusion in East Timor’, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies Vol 38 (2): 355-375.

McWilliam A. 2007 ‘Introduction: Restorative Custom: Ethnographic perspectives on conflict and local justice in Timor’, In James J Fox and Andrew McWilliam (eds),Traditional Justice in Timor, Special Issue. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 8 (1): 1-8.

McWilliam A. 2007 ‘Meto Disputes and Peacemaking: Cultural notes on conflict and its resolution’, In James J Fox and Andrew McWilliam (eds), Traditional Justice in Timor, Special Issue, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 8 (1): 75-92.

McWilliam A. Robinson K and J Curnow 2007, ‘Local Cooperatives and Microfinance in Eastern Indonesia: Autonomy and opportunity for community economies’, Development Bulletin V72, pp 14-18.

McWilliam A.R 2007 ‘Harbouring Traditions in East Timor: Marginality in a lowland entrepôt’, Modern Asian Studies Vol 41 (6): 1113-43.

McWilliam A. 2007 ‘Looking for Adê: A contribution to Timorese historiography’, Bijdragen Tot de Taal- Land en Volkenkunde v163 2/3: 221-238.

Robinson K. and McWilliam A. 2006  ‘Asset Based Community Development in Indonesia: Case studies in the Diverse Economies of Buton and Ngada’, (Flores). Masyarakat Indonesia Vol XXXII(2).

McWilliam A. 2006, ‘Historical reflections on customary land rights in Indonesia’,  In James Weiner and Katie Glaskin (eds), The Fate of Customary Law in the Twenty First Century. Special Issue, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 7 (1): 45-64.

McWilliam A. 2005, ‘Houses of resistance in East Timor: Structuring sociality in the new nation’, Anthropological Forum 15 (1): 27-44.

Fitzpatrick, D and McWilliam A. 2005 ‘Waiting for Law: Land, Custom and Legal Regulation in East Timor’, Development Bulletin, Vol 68: 58-61.

McWilliam A. R. 2005 ‘Haumeni, not many: Renewed plunder and mismanagement in the Timorese sandalwood industry’, Modern Asian Studies 39 (2): 1-36.

Selected Consultancy Reports, Policy Studies, Media

McWilliam A.R. 2017 ‘Multiplier Effects on the Bombana Goldfields’, Inside Indonesia v130 Oct.

McWilliam A.R. 2017 Fitzmaurice River Land Claim (No. 189), Anthropologist’s Report on Behalf of Claimants, Submission to the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Darwin: Northern Territory.

McWilliam A.R. 2016 Legune Pastoral Lease (NT Portion 1062): Site Clearance and Consultations, Sea Dragon Prawn Aquaculture Project, Report to the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority: 51.

McWilliam, A.R. 2015, 'Backing themselves: East Timorese labour migrants in Oxford'. Centre for Migration, Policy and Society,

McWilliam A, Gulden G and A Dennis 2013 : Public Consultation and Development Plan (PCDP) : Abadi LNG Project, Eastern Indonesia. Report to INPEX MASELA Pty Ltd and Shell Upstream Services, Indonesia: 108.

Stacey N., Stanley O, McWilliam A.R & H. Hunter-Xenie,  2012  Bradshaw Social Impact Assessment Review and Baseline Community Study Report . Report prepared for the Commonwealth Department of Defence. I: 133 & II: 69  [Collaborative research with Charles Darwin University].

Robinson K, McWilliam A. and Rauf S. (2011) Community Partnering for Local Economic Development. On-line Manual: [Indonesian language] anthropology/kmum

McWilliam A. Lorenzen S, Ishak L and S.H. Soselisa, 2011 Gosowong Social Impact and Baseline Study: Scoping Report, Report to Newcrest P/L on Gold mining operations in Halmahera, Indonesia: 75.

Robinson K, McWilliam A. Lorenzen S and Mahli A. 2010 Sulawesi Nickel Social Baseline and Community Relations: Final Report, ANU-Rio Tinto Research Partnership.

McWilliam A. and Dawson G, 2010 BP Tangguh LNG Project External Panel: Seventh Compliance Monitoring Visit Report, Report to GHD and the Asia Development Bank. Webpage: [final report of 5 compliance missions].

Edyvane, K., McWilliam, A., Quintas, J., Turner, A., Penny, S., Teixeira, I., Pereira, C., Tibirica, Y. and Birtles, A., 2009 Coastal and marine ecotourism values, issues and opportunities on the north coast of Timor Leste – final report. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, National Directorate of Tourism, Government of Timor Leste: 80.

Alongi, D, A Amaral, N Carvalho, A McWilliam, J Rouwenhorst, F Tirendi, L Trott, R J Wasson, 2009 River Catchments and Marine Productivity in Timor Leste: Caraulun (and Laclo) Catchment(s); South and North Coasts, East Timor. The Timor-Leste coastal/Marine Mapping for Tourism and Fisheries Development Project: Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Timor-Leste.

McWilliam A. and Laurence J., 2009 Anthropological Report on Native Title Interest over Rosewood, Legune and Spirit Hills Pastoral Leases, Report to the Federal Court of Australia.

McWilliam A. and Asche W., 2009 Report on Native Title Interests on Auvergne, Newry and Bullo River Pastoral Stations, Northern Territory, Report to the Federal Court of Australia.


Desmon Ginting:
Reprogramming Work Ethos: The Dialectic of the habitus of individuals and their workplaces.

Akhmad Najibul Khairi Syaie:
The Dynamic of Islamism Post-Soeharto Era in Madura

Hasan Basri:
Green Islam’ and ‘Green Pesantren’: An Ethnographic Study of Pesantren Annuqayah, Madura Island, Indonesia

Ahmad Syarif Hidayatullah:
Self-Transformations of Millennial Muslims in Indonesia: From Traditionalist to Fundamentalist

Abdul Hadi:
Religious Leaders and Development in Contemporary Indonesia: The role in Islamic Tuan Guru in the Socio-Economic Development of Local communities in the Post-Suharto Era.

Helen Abbot (external; ANU):
Turned towards the sea: people, place and the marine environment on Atauro Island, East Timor

Catarina Pinto (external; University of Lisbon):
From intangibility to circularity: creating and using tais in the district of Lautem, Timor Leste


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