Ebook:   Yohanes Budi Hernawan


From the Theatre of Torture to the Theatre of Peace:
The Politics of Torture and Re-imagining Peacebuilding in Papua, Indonesia  (pdf)


A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
at The Australian National University
March 2013




This thesis provides the first full-length of scholarly examination of the half century of
the politics of torture and peacebuilding frameworks in Papua, Indonesia. It has
assembled a data base of 431 reported torture cases for the period 1963-2010 as well as
examined 214 testimonies of state actors, survivors and third parties from Indonesia,
Australia, Papua New Guinea, the United States, the United Kingdom and the
Netherlands. While the current resurgence of scholarly interests on torture largely
focuses on the utilitarian nature of torture as part of the war on terror, the findings of
this study take a non-utilitarian turn.
First, torture has been deployed strategically by the Indonesian state in Papua as a mode
of governance. Second, torture constitutes a spectacle of the sovereign by which the
sovereign communicates to a broader audience through the public display of the
tortured body. Third, torture has constituted a crime against humanity punishable by
both Indonesian and International Human Rights Law. Fourth, the five-decade practice
of torture with almost complete impunity has constructed a theatre of torture in which
the interactions of survivors, perpetrators, and spectators have produced and reproduced
contesting narratives of suffering, domination and witnessing. Based on these four
conclusions, peacebuilding in Papua can be reconceptualised as developing a theatre of
peacebuilding to transform the theatre of torture.
The theatre of peacebuilding model reveals that torture has not always entirely and
permanently converted a subject into an ‘abject’. Many survivors not only regain their
subjectivity but also their agency. They are able to resist the domination of perpetrators
and to take control over their own bodies and histories. In this process of regaining
agency, memoria passionis (the memory of suffering) may be beginning to push Papua
toward a tipping point that is transforming the theatre of torture to a theatre of
peacebuilding. The possibility for this transformation is encapsulated in the idea of
establishing a permanent Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Papua (TRCP).
Memoria passionis has become a converging point that connects the triangulation of the
narratives of suffering, domination and witnessing and inverts the triangulation into a
new configuration of ‘revolt, healing and solidarity.’ The whole process of theorising
peacebuilding based on the concept of memoria passionis as a remedy to the politics of
torture in Papua contributes a novel and distinctively Papuan foundation to the theory
and practice of peacebuilding in conflict situations like Papua.