#Papuanlivesmatter: how a narrative of racism has elevated West Papua’s decolonisation movement

Publication Name

International Journal of Human Rights


The ongoing conflict in West Papua has at various times been attributed to a contestation of Indonesian versus West Papuan nationalisms, Indonesia's economic exploitation of West Papua, and Indonesia's geopolitical interest in colonising West Papua. Recently, a new framing has been brought to bear on the occupation that highlights the role of Indonesian racism in West Papuans' ongoing pursuit of independence from its coloniser. While West Papuans have long been aware that they are victims of racist denigration, since 2019, a narrative of racism in the analysis of their ongoing colonisation—one with global reverberations—has acquired a potency that has re-energised West Papuans' independence movement. In this article I argue that a concatenation of events has propelled the issue of racism to ascendency within the West Papuan activist agenda prompting the emergence of the Papuan Lives Matter movement. I analyse this powerful discursive shift from viewing the occupation as one perpetuated by Indonesian state politics-driven exploitation to one predominantly motivated by a potentially more insidious and pervasive enemy—cultural racism—and unpack its implications for West Papuan politics.

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