Ethics, Utopia and Materiality: Glimpses of Everyday Creativity and Hope in Indonesian Papua

The Asmat are an indigenous people of Indonesian Papua and are renowned for their artistic carving flair and complex life-cycle rituals. They also have big ambitions that reach as far as the Vatican. Over the past five decades, pressures from the state, religious authorities, and the global art market, have led to profound cultural changes and a widespread sense of predicament, dysphoria and disempowerment among the Asmat.

In this episode of SSEAC Stories, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Dr Roberto Costa to discuss the social changes experienced by the Asmat people, and the material and ethical alternatives they are developing in response to a wide range of socio-cultural, religious, and ecological predicaments.

About Roberto Costa:

Roberto Costa (PhD in Anthropology, 2021) currently works as a sessional academic at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sydney and the School of Social Sciences at Macquarie University. He has published in the areas of politics, religion, ethics, materiality and human-non-human relations, mainly on his research in Indonesia and Papua/Melanesia. His research interests also include digital activism, phenomenology, and visual and sensory anthropology, the latter stemming from his prior educational formation as a musician. His present project focuses on rewriting his doctoral thesis into a book. In his doctoral research, he looked at the efforts of the Asmat, a people group in the south of Indonesian Papua, to actualise material and ethical alternatives to socio-cultural, religious and ecological predicaments.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website:

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