Living without a state
Indonesian Papua is not a uniform entity. When outsiders think of Papua, they imagine provincial and national-level political conflicts and protests against Indonesian rule. But this is only the reality for a minority of Papuans in the major towns of Jayapura, Wamena, and Timika, and their suburbs. Outside of select groups within these areas, most people do not engage in political issues related to referendum protests, dialogue with Jakarta, or Merdeka (independence).
Instead, local fissures count more in day-to-day politics. In the province, most people’s primary loyalties are not to an idea of ‘Papua’, nor are contending loyalties to ‘Indonesia’. Instead, most people are above all loyal to their clan, with even broader tribal loyalties being secondary. Loyalties to Papua or Indonesia come a distant third, at best. Whilst Jayapura and Wamena host numerous and often competing groups who agitate for independence, and while a few areas such as Puncak Jaya host active insurrectionists, most of rural Papua is an underdeveloped and detached space where political conflicts are entirely local.
In most places outside of the towns, the key issue is not that Papuans reject the Indonesian state: it is simply that the state plays little or no role in their lives, for better or for worse.