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By Brigham Golden


In the remote highlands of West Papua (Irian Jaya), women of the Moni tribe have become the primary agents of transformation in their community—adopting new economies and ideologies brought by the Indonesian State and the Catholic Church much more readily than Moni men. Though the actions of Moni women appear to be effective strategies of self-empowerment with respect to their indigenous milieu, they also serve to draw their community into larger orders, engendering hegemonies dangerous to the Moni—and in particular to Moni women. The following essay suggests that a feminist anthropology with activist aspirations will have to develop new tools of analysis in order to engage and support the women of indigenous communities. Specifically, it must emancipate itself from the preservationalist logic of “indigenism ” (Ramos 1998) and from the crudely oppositional categories of discourse (locality/globality) and practice (resistance/domination) upon which indigenism is founded. Instead, feminist anthropology must evaluate its activist engagements through analyses of an indigenous milieu that are sensitive to both the hybridities of discourses and to the contingencies of practices. Such a commitment to subtle knowledge of the field will not erase the self-doubt of feminist anthropology as it assists indigenous women in authoring the transformation of their communities, but it will unite theory and activism in such a way that self-critique does not become paralysis. 1 Lawrence says, “life was better then”; Agnes says, “life is better now”: The lessons of “indigenous ” wome

Topics: for theory and activism in feminist anthropology
Year: 2011
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