International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, 02/11/2021
Development and Change, 53, 5
Scholarship that identifies ‘distribution’ as the key to inclusive governance has promoted suspicion of development agendas that foreground ‘production’. This article analyses controversy around food and cash transfers and decentralized development funding in Indonesia's contested Papua territory. Some observers and recipients allege that these instruments, which have proliferated under ‘Special Autonomy’ reforms intended to defuse the West Papuan independence movement, have caused a decline of indigenous subsistence agriculture. Papua's various distribution (and distribution-like) mechanisms were instituted under pressure from international agencies, in response to mass unrest, and in the wake of crises that altered Papua's role in Indonesian development. In Papua's Central Highlands, food and cash distribution instruments have addressed farming shortfalls and played a role in the diversification of livelihoods — a shift that animates anxious speculation about the viability of indigenous social reproduction. Such commentary gestures to a contested development horizon featuring extractive and agrarian agendas with divergent implications for the reproduction of distinctive rural livelihoods. Laments about the harm to rural productivity caused by distribution evoke but gloss over threats of devaluation of labour, highlighting tension between popular concerns about social reproduction and scholarly anxieties about the celebration of production.
Print: September 2022