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Theses and Dissertations about Papua
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Glazebrook, Diana 2001 Dwelling in Exile, Perceiving Return: West Papuan refugees from Irian Jaya living at East Awin in Western Province, Papua New Guinea PhD Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra
    © Diana Glazebrook, 2001. Use of any part of this thesis for any purpose must be acknowledged.

Abstract

In 1998 the Indonesian and Papua New Guinea governments assisted by the UNHCR, made an offer of permissive residency or repatriation to West Papuan refugees living at East Awin, in Western Province, PNG. This thesis examines how this offer articulated with the struggle by some of these refugees to reclaim their nation. Behind events of West Papuan flight into PNG seeking political asylum, lies a foment of collective memories of suffering, or memoria passionis, since the period of Indonesian colonisation. Memories of suffering effect an antagonistic opposition, generating local discourses that distinguish West Papuan nationhood in racial and cultural, as well as historical terms. West Papuan refugees read the naturalness of nation, the condition of exile, and teleological return to the homeland through the Bible. During the period 1984-86, ten thousand West Papuan people fled into Papua New Guinea, seeking political asylum. In 1987, four thousand people were relocated from the border to an inland site at East Awin in Western Province, the location of this fieldwork study. Refugees have cultivated this site as a dwelling place through various practices that inscribe the landscape, and by creating social attachments. This isolated, sago-less site has generated a perception of East Awin as dystopic, in relation to their own place or homeland. In 1998, one quarter of the refugees at East Awin registered for repatriation to Irian Jaya. Timing was considered critical to the decision of return, guided by the judgement that a satisfactory result of the period of exile had been achieved. PNG's offer of permissive residency, necessitating the withdrawal of UNHCR involvement, was interpreted by some refugees as a ruse to compel their repatriation because they could not endure exile without UNHCR guardianship. Others conceived permissive residency in PNG in tactical terms as a status allowing them to continue the struggle to reclaim their West Papuan nationhood, from a place of exile.


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