This article is a revised version of one read during the panel on Becoming Like the State, organized by Daniel Fisher and me, at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Montreal, in December 2011. The initial thoughts for this paper were developed during a writing fellowship at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden within the framework of a project on the State of Authority in Indonesia, in 2006. For comments on these earlier versions I would like to thank Joshua Barker, Mike Cookson, Daniel Fisher, Henk Schulte Nordholt, and Gerry van Klinken.
The Threefold Logic of Papua-Melanesia: Constitution-writing in the Margins of the Indonesian Nation-State†
Version of Record online: 20 OCT 2013
© 2013 Oceania Publications
Volume 83, Issue 3, pages 158–174, November 2013
How to Cite
Timmer, J. (2013), The Threefold Logic of Papua-Melanesia: Constitution-writing in the Margins of the Indonesian Nation-State. Oceania, 83: 158–174. doi: 10.1002/ocea.5018
- Issue online: 4 NOV 2013
- Version of Record online: 20 OCT 2013
- the state;
- West Papua;
Clashes over the status of West Papua and the political future of the territory proliferated markedly following the end of Indonesia's New Order regime in 1998. Amid a wide variety of demands for justice and independence, and a series of demonstrations, mass gatherings and prayers, only a few Papuans mused on how Papua could become a state and what would constitute its nature as being distinctly Papuan and/or Melanesian. One exception is the work put into the Constitution for West Papua entitled Basic Guidelines, State of West Papua, a document edited by Don A.L. Flassy, a bureaucrat, writer and thinker, with a preface by late Theys H. Eluay, then chairman of the Papuan Council. In this article I analyse this Constitution to show how a combination of Christianity and local customs, and a mimicry of elements of Indonesian nation building and symbols of the Indonesian nation-state are reshaped to oppose Indonesian nation-building agendas. The Constitution shows that when Papuans imagine an independent state, forms of vernacular legality play a central role. ‘The state’ has journeyed to Papua and encouraged faith in ‘the law,’ and Basic Guidelines is partly the effect of this growing vernacular legality. My analysis shows that it is essential to see how legal mobilisations and imaginations of the state articulate with other normative systems and practices – in particular Christianity and custom (adat) – and how they mutually allow for and invite strategies.