The articles in this special issue build on past ethnographic inquiries and focus on political and social change since Timor-Leste independence. One of the things we have found particularly exciting about researching post-independent Timor-Leste has been to carry out fieldwork in a context where not just researchers, but also our informants, are caught up in processes of sense-making of determining what kind of place Timor-Leste as an independent nation is becoming. The reality of ethnographic research in such a context is far different from, as Ferguson (1999, 208) has it, the archetypal image of the anthropologist dropped into the middle of a cultural homogenous village community where the researcher acquires from local informants a degree of cultural fluency. Rather, while we as researchers have tried to learn about Timor-Leste, our informants, as citizens of a new nation, have been absorbed in a parallel process of learning, deliberating and at times contesting what kind of place Timor-Leste as an independent nation is, and should become in the future (see Kammen 2009). In other words, making sense of independent Timor- Leste has, over the past decade, been a project that preoccupies Timorese citizens as much as the foreign researcher. This issue addresses some of these processes of sense-making and negotiation; and highlights the ambiguities and paradoxes, while stressing the heterogeneity and unpredictability of contemporary Timor-Leste.