From ‘Stone-Age’ to ‘Real-Time’ Exploring Papuan Temporalities, Mobilities, and Religiosities

Published by ANU Press
The Australian National University


There are probably no other people on earth to whom the image of the ‘stoneage’
is so persistently attached than the inhabitants of the island of New Guinea,
which is divided into independent Papua New Guinea and the western part of
the island, known today under the names of Papua and West Papua. This volume
focuses on the latter region, which took its own trajectory since the colonial
division of the island and especially since its controversial incorporation into the
Indonesian nation-state in the 1960s. In Papua, stone-age imagery has motivated
missions to ‘pacify’, ‘civilise’, ‘modernise’, ‘Christianise’ and ‘Islamise’ the
local population, and mobilised a proliferation of hierarchical relations, locally
and regionally. These projects of frontier transformation became particularly
invasive during the authoritarian Suharto regime (1966–98), but are continuing
today under different guises.

Today, many Papuans are connected in ‘real-time’ through Facebook, YouTube
and other social networking sites and are increasingly mobile within and beyond
Indonesia, certainly belying the old images of isolated stone-agers. At the same
time, technologies and mobilities offer certain freedoms while constraining
others; novel trajectories may meet familiar challenges. This volume explores the
real-time, mobile, social and cultural aspects of contemporary Papua, including
historical trajectories that collapse notions of the past with visions of the future.
It is concerned with the genealogy of the image of the stone-ager as well as
with its current transformations by Papuan, regional and (inter)national agents.
In this interconnected age, Papuans may position themselves anew offline and
online, as they explore often heterodox religious and political visions, engage
in Christian and Muslim networks, renegotiate intra-Papuan relations as well
as their relations with non-Papuans, develop forms of resistance in a highly
militarised space, and critically question prejudices directed against them. In
short, Papua is being remade.

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