Jacob Nerenberg

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient

Grant number

Gr. 10648

Approve Date

November 4, 2023

Project Title

Nerenberg, Jacob (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient) "Nerenberg, Jacob (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient) "Land Locked: Indigenous Labour and Citizenship on an Asia-Pacific Frontier""

Indigenous movements around the world have protested development models that value land and resources more than the creative working capacities of indigenous people. In response, governments have implemented policies declaring an intent to ‘empower’ populations recognized as original residents. This research project analyses a regime of recognition of indigeneity that makes access to ‘empowerment’ conditional on a diminishment of indigenous labor. In Indonesia’s contested Papua territory, also known as West Papua, Jakarta has sought to defuse pro-independence sentiment by agreeing to ‘indigenous empowerment’ policies, funded by rents from natural resource extraction. While scholars have analyzed the ‘rentier’ dimension of indigenous citizenship in many resource-rich ‘frontier’ regions, its implications for the recognition of labor remain understudied. Reports of the ‘failure’ of rent-funded ‘empowerment’ incite discourses of ethno-racial comparison and debates about whether indigenous Papuans can ‘compete’ in a market economy. Documenting experiences of participants in ‘entrepreneurship’ training programs, theological disagreements among indigenous Christian churches, and campaigns for new infrastructure projects, the research illustrates how local actors grapple with uncertainty in the recognition of indigenous labor. The project argues that labor—and its misrecognition—are central to practices of citizenship, even among populations whose access to ‘empowerment’ depends on being fixed to land.