Congratulations to Dr Budi Hernawan for his July graduation for a wonderful PhD thesis, From the Theatre of Torture to the Theatre of Peace: The Politics of Torture and Re-imagining Peacebuilding in Papua, Indonesia (read online).
We will miss the quiet integrity of Budi’s engagement with colleagues and social issues. During his time at ANU, Br Budi combined his research with his two other vocations as a Franciscan Brother and a peacemaker. He was particularly active in Catholic church leadership toward a peace process for West Papua. In pursuit of this, he managed to have a number of conversations with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd about peace in Papua during his years in Canberra. The Prime Minister was observed in late July seated in Budi’s Canberra residence, the Jesuit community house, a glass of red in hand, reading passages from Budi’s thesis. Not something that happens during many PhDs!
The thesis examines half a century of the politics of torture and peacebuilding frameworks in West Papua. It assembled a data base of 431 reported torture cases. While the current resurgence of scholarly interest in 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.
Memoria Passionis (the memory of suffering) is conceived in the thesis as a beginning to moving 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 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.
This congratulatory note was written by Budi’s PhD supervisor, Prof. John Braithwaite.