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Theses and Dissertations about Papua
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Kirksey, S. Eben 2002 From Cannibal to Terrorist: State Violence, Indigenous Resistance and Representation in West Papua, M.Phil. Thesis, Economic and Social History, University of Oxford.

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    © S. Eben Kirksey, 2002. Use of any part of this thesis for any purpose must be acknowledged.


Contemporary Papuans invert orthodox discourse by depicting the Indonesian state as a savage neo-colonial institution that is occupying their homeland of West Papua. Images of Papuans as cannibals and terrorists are mirrored back onto the Indonesian military. Torture and state-sponsored extra judicial killings in West Papua make Papuans terrified about voicing their critiques of Indonesian rule and their aspirations for an independent nation-state.

Papuans',have developed the key symbols of nationalism. They have a largely symbolic 'army' that uses small-scale acts of violent resistance to keep Papuan hopes alive and to bring issues from the realm of the undiscussed into the mainstream media. Most media coverage, however, depicts Papuan nationalist desires as illegitimate. The Indonesian government has tabooed the naming of independence organisations in the media and required that they be labelled with symbolically charged acronyms instead. The large majority of Papuans employ non-violent strategies of resistance to Indonesian occupation.

In the realm of geopolitics divergent Papuan aspirations are not being discussed. Papuan independence organisations are not efficient Weberian bureaucracies. The persistence of the self-determination movement in West Papua is tied to its flexible structure of organisation, or rather, its anti-organisational constitution. The Papuan concept of merdeka (freedom) is used to link a wide variety of discourses and polities into a unified front of resistance against Indonesia. Most Papuans in rural areas desire more than an independent nation-state: they hope for new systems of governance based on indigenous modes of authority. They desire a future where indigenous discourses would come to have broader political implications; a social and legal order that combines indigenous protocols of oration with written legislation. As West Papua continues to negotiate independence from Indonesia and interdependencies with the rest of the world there will be further opportunities to bring their indigenous discourses into the forefront of global debates.


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