The Biopolitics of Gendered ‘Blackness’: Transnational Perspectives on Women, Race, and Health

Authors: Maryani Palupy Rasidjan*, Univeristy of California, San Francisco
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Women, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Papua, Family Planning, Blackness, Racialization, Pronatalism, Women's Reproductive Health, Global Health
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: President's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines the intersection between race, national identity and women’s reproductive health in Papua—Indonesia’s easternmost province and the site of over fifty years of contested sovereignty. Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I explore the ways in which a Black Papuan self-identification has been both consolidated and contested in response to Indonesia’s national family planning program. While Papuan identifications currently oscillate between the terms ‘indigenous’, ‘customary civil society’ (masyrakat adat), ‘black’ and ‘Melanesian’, a black-Melanesian identity is often invoked and deployed as key to claiming Papuan sovereignty from Indonesia. At the same time, Papuan blackness renders Papuan women both invisible and hypervisible to the Indonesian state. Their invisibility lying in the state desire for family planning to (re) produce a singular ideal Indonesian citizenry that rejects Blackness, and hypervisibility as black Papuan women become the targets of reproductive health intervention precisely because their racialization converges with the highest rates of the worst reproductive health outcomes in the nation. This racialization, which sometimes oscillates between or is coupled with other forms of self-identification, is deeply entangled with ‘population’, and again center on Papuan women’s bodies. Here ‘population’ emerges as the idiom of simultaneous anxieties—that is, charges of overpopulation by the state (thereby, requiring family planning) and depopulation (a clear indictment of family planning). I connect contemporary black Papuan self-identification to histories of early Papuan political invocations of a global black liberation in order to situate the assemblage of pressures and histories women contend with when confronting family planning structures.

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