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Every death is political.

June 6, 2011

Every life is political, in that it has weight and meanings that can be used for a variety of positions (often a much larger set of meanings than are actually used). But deaths are especially so.

Papuan sickness and death have acquired great meaning in the last two decades, and writing about Papua has often corralled them onto the sides of independence pamphlets and websites about injustice. While there are very obviously political implications to the death of Papuans, particularly when these occur from preventable diseases or are the direct result of agents of the Indonesian state, they deserve a far stronger countenance, one which illuminates the disease and its functions directly. People don’t just die, even when their deaths are deliberate. Rees and Silove (2008) do this to an extent, Leslie Butt (along with Morin, Munro and others) more so.

Deaths without context float around, adrift, depositing meanings on whoever touches them. What is needed is more context (complexity), not less.

[Draft, to be reconfigured with reference to Fassin’s conception of the biopolitical death.]

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