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The poetics of village space when villages are new: Settlement form as history making in Papua, Indonesia



Resettlement of dispersed populations into centralized villages has been a watershed cultural change across many world regions, often occurring under pressure from states, world religions, and markets. Recent village formation processes among Korowai of Papua, Indonesia, have been caused by such pressures but have also been heavily structured by Korowai understandings of geography. This article takes Korowai villages as a case study in the semiotics of space. The power of villages to be the pivot of historical transformation flows from this spatial form's “poetic density,” meaning its ladenness with a multiplicity of social principles, structures of feeling, and models of extralocal geopolitical articulation. Additionally, Korowai strongly orient to space as a field of heterogeneity. Their expectation that different spaces are charged with otherness of order has shaped their village-forming actions and their intense focus on villages in thinking about contemporary history at large.

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