The Paradox of Papuan Recognition After Two Decades of Special Autonomy: Racism, Violence, and Self-Determination




Racism, Recognition, Self-Determination, Special Autonomy, Violence



 Indonesia’s relationship with Papua, its poorest and easternmost region, is still colored by racism. Despite 20 years of special autonomy law (OTSUS) and efforts to improve relations and the status of indigenous Papuans, a shocking incident of large-scale racism in Surabaya in 2019 brought back memories of anti-Papuan discrimination, which OTSUS has failed to solve. The incident triggered horizontal conflict sharpened by an identity contest between Papuans and non-Papuans, reverberating to the present day. Why do Papuans still face conflict after two decades of OTSUS? This paper argues that OTSUS, originally designed to provide legal and cultural recognition to Papuans and their rights within the state, paradoxically failed to guarantee Papuan recognition. This lack of recognition supports increasing calls for independence among Papuan activists and other pro-independence organizations. Hence, this situation complicates efforts to reduce violence undertaken not only by state security personnel but also by members of the Free Papua Movement.

Author Biography

Rosita Dewi, National Research and Innovation Agency, Indonesia

Rosita Dewi is a researcher at the Research Centre for Politics, National Research and Innovation Agency, Indonesia. Her research has focused on Papua since 2005. She obtained her doctoral degree from Kyoto University in 2017. 


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