Of Birds and Gifts: Reviving Tradition on an Indonesian Frontier

Peer Reviewed

Essay Excerpt

In the following pages, I will begin to speak to Hitchcock's concerns by examining the revival of tradition in contemporary Biak. To investigate the problems opened by his question, I will explore how the search for an authentic Biak has led the Indonesian government to appropriate local forms of song and dance. First, I will describe the challenge of producing an image of Biak that satisfies the discursive demands of scholarship, tourism, and national integration. Then I will turn to the distinctive qualities of two performative genres-yospan and wor-that have figured prominentlyin the government's changing policies. I will attempt to set this saga in the context of the wider forces that are transforming the frontier of which Biak is a product. After suggesting how Biak yospan and wor enact a local logic of domestication, I will trace their domestication by the Indonesian state. (Rutherford, 580)

About the Author

Rutherford is a Professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

"My work has touched on a far flung set of topics. My first book focuses on the value of foreignness among the people of Biak, an island group in West Papua, the Indonesian territory that covers the western half of New Guinea. I used my fieldwork on Biak to reveal the limits of contemporary accounts of national belonging. My second book focuses on the relationship between sovereignty and audience in West Papua during the Dutch colonial and contemporary periods. My topics in this book range from pacification campaigns to mission language ideology to documentaries and YouTube videos produced by West Papuan activists. I am now finishing a book on affect, technology, and colonial state-building in the highlands of Dutch New Guinea and beginning a project on secular belief that will involve fieldwork in the United States on speech therapy and disability. I have published articles on kinship, music, dance, money, violence, writing, literature, and the ethics and epistemology of anthropology."

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