Constructing Papuan Nationalism: History, Ethnicity, and Adaption
Papuan nationalism is young, evolving, and flexible. It has adapted to and reflected the political circumstances in which it has emerged. Its evolution as a political force is one of the crucial factors in any analysis of political and cultural change in Papua, and the development of relations between the Indonesian government and Papuan society. This study examines the development of Papuan nationalism from the Pacific War through the movement?s revival after the fall of President Suharto in 1998. The author argues that the first step in understanding Papuan nationalism is understanding Papuan history and historical consciousness. The history that so preoccupies Papuan nationalists is the history of the decolonization of the Netherlands Indies, the struggle between Indonesia and the Netherlands over the sovereignty of Papua, and Papua?s subsequent integration into Indonesia. Papuan nationalism is also about ethnicity. Many Papuan nationalists make strong distinctions between Papuans and other peoples, especially Indonesians. However, Papuan society itself is a mosaic of over three hundred small, local, and often isolated ethno-linguistic groups. Yet over the years a pan-Papuan identity has been forged from this mosaic of tribal groups. This study explores the nationalists? argument about history and the sources of their sense of common ethnicity. It also explores the possibility that the Special Autonomy Law of 2001, if implemented fully, might provide a framework in which Papuan national aspirations might be realized.This is the fourteenth publication in Policy Studies, a peer-reviewed East-West Center Washington series that presents scholarly analysis of key contemporary domestic and international political, economic, and strategic issues affecting Asia in a policy relevant manner.
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