- From "Stone-Age" to "Real-Time": Exploring Papuan Temporalities, Mobilities and Religiosities ed. by Martin Slama and Jenny Munro
This highly original and analytically diverse collection of essays on contemporary Papua explores narratives and experiences of inequality through the lens of their constitutive spatiotemporal dimensions. The titular "real-time" refers to the temporal immediacy of digital technologies of connectivity (eg, mobile phones, social media, or laptops) and, at the same time, glosses a globalized modernity. Real-time imagines networks of coevals linked through contemporaneous, shared experience, while also supplying the possibility of a temporal other: that of the "stone-ager." An evolutionist conceit, the Stone Age is, however, still very much entangled in real-time, and these myriad entanglements in Papua are, in large part, the subjects of the essays in this volume.
Editors Martin Slama and Jenny Munro frame the volume in terms of three themes: temporalities, mobilities, and religiosities. As the plurality in each of these guiding themes makes clear, the constituent essays deal in multiplicity. Temporalities include those of the real-time and stone-age, but also clear is the idea that realtime is itself iterative and, much like Papua itself, perennially being remade. Mobilities refer to movements in time or space, of capital or goods, and across social hierarchies. Religiosities point to relationships between Papuan spirituality and ethnonationalism, historicity, and cosmology.
The theme of Papuan mobilities, and the shame that can arise in mobility's wake, figure centrally in both Munro's and Leslie Butt's contributions (chapters 7 and 9, respectively). Munro's essay reveals how experiences of shame make legible the evolutionist hierarchies and racial stigma that follow Papuan youth, even as they assume privileged roles as university students in North Sulawesi. Butt's discussion of male migration and hiv looks at the understudied experiences of men who return home to Papua seeking care and treatment. Desires for social continuity and a return to normal life confront the strictures of stigmatizing disease and community expectations. For both Munro and Butt, the promises of mobility—of persons, ideas, and technologies—refract through the endemicity of racism and discrimination.
Slama provides a fascinating analysis of how the concept of the Islamic frontier, understood in spatial rather than temporal terms, offers an alternative to the evolutionist imaginary of frontier Papua (chapter 10). It is ultimately, however, a vision that cannot entirely escape inflections of Indonesian Islam and center-periphery social and political hierarchies. Rupert Stasch shows how the Korowai people actively engage these very hierarchies through intentional practices of "self-lowering," understood as modes of relation making that are informed by Korowai ethics of egalitarianism, kinship, and exchange (chapter [End Page 249] 3). As Stasch explains, the Korowai perform a self-understood primitiveness to propel themselves into asymmetrical relationships of power, which highlight unexpected attractions and dependencies with state institutions. As Stasch explains, performances of a self-understood concept of the primitive propel the Korowai into asymmetrical relationships of power, which highlight unexpected attractions and dependencies with state institutions.
Henri Myrttinen offers insight into an unreciprocated affinity for a different foreign entity, here, Israel (chapter 5). Excavating its symbolism in aspirational narratives concerning Papua's future of merdeka (freedom), he finds Israel to evoke multiple referents: political ally, spiritual link, and biblical metaphor. Sarah Richards analyzes how Papuans negotiate the moral terrains of American hip-hop amid its growing popularity and influence among Papuan youth (chapter 6). While supporters and detractors situate hip-hop differently in relation to ethnic identity and political landscape, both express moral positioning through the idioms of Papuan pride and authenticity. In chapter 4, Jaap Timmer analyzes three distinct Papuan historical narratives, each of which demonstrates a desire to "straighten history" (99), that is, to supplant Indonesian renderings of Papua's place in national history with authentically Papuan accountings steeped in religious and nationalist discourse.
Danilyn Rutherford, building on...