From the theatre of torture to the theatre of peace: The politics of torture and re-imagining peacebuilding in Papua, Indonesia




Hernawan, Yohanes Budi

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Canberra, ACT : The Australian National University


This thesis provides the first full-length of scholarly examination of the half century of the politics of torture and peacebuilding frameworks in Papua, Indonesia. It has assembled a data base of 431 reported torture cases for the period 1963-2010 as well as examined 214 testimonies of state actors, survivors and third parties from Indonesia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. While the current resurgence of scholarly interests on torture largely focuses on the utilitarian nature of torture as part of the war on terror, the findings of this study take a non-utilitarian turn. First, torture has been deployed strategically by the Indonesian state in Papua as a mode of governance. Second, torture constitutes a spectacle of the sovereign by which the sovereign communicates to a broader audience through the public display of the tortured body. Third, torture has constituted a crime against humanity punishable by both Indonesian and International Human Rights Law. Fourth, the five-decade practice of torture with almost complete impunity has constructed a theatre of torture in which the interactions of survivors, perpetrators, and spectators have produced and reproduced contesting narratives of suffering, domination and witnessing. Based on these four conclusions, peacebuilding in Papua can be reconceptualised as developing a theatre of peacebuilding to transform the theatre of torture. The theatre of peacebuilding model reveals that torture has not always entirely and permanently converted a subject into an ‘abject’. Many survivors not only regain their subjectivity but also their agency. They are able to resist the domination of perpetrators and to take control over their own bodies and histories. In this process of regaining agency, memoria passionis (the memory of suffering) may be beginning to push Papua toward a tipping point that is transforming the theatre of torture to a theatre of peacebuilding. The possibility for this transformation is encapsulated in the idea of establishing a permanent Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Papua (TRCP). Memoria passionis has become a converging point that connects the triangulation of the narratives of suffering, domination and witnessing and inverts the triangulation into a new configuration of ‘revolt, healing and solidarity.’ The whole process of theorising peacebuilding based on the concept of memoria passionis as a remedy to the politics of torture in Papua contributes a novel and distinctively Papuan foundation to the theory and practice of peacebuilding in conflict situations like Papua.



Torture, Papua, Indonesia, state-violence, peacebuilding, Papua Land of Peace, human rights, memoria passionis, crimes against humanity




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