Danilyn Rutherford. Laughing at Leviathan: Sovereignty and Audience in West Papua. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2012. 336 pp. Joseph Errington Many readers of Indonesia know Raiding the Land of the Foreigners,1 Rutherford's first book, as an ethnography of engagements between people of Biak, West Papua, and outsiders who become for them fetishized sources of danger, surprise, and power. Among nonspecialists in Indonesia it became known as an eloquent argument by example against epochalist accounts of national modernity, insightfully demonstrating, sometimes in considerable detail, how subjectivities and identities emerged not through "a sheer and abrupt break with the past," but as "contingent outcomes of engagements between emergent social worlds." 2 Laughing at Leviathan extends Rutherford's keen double vision in broader purview. On one hand, it considers a wide range of engagements between people of West Papua and agents of foreign sovereignty. On the other hand, those engagements are framed as elements of a sustained critique of influential philosophical approaches to the state and state sovereignty. By intertwining these thematics, Rutherford demonstrates convincingly that anthropological orientations to the local and processual can be framed to speak compellingly and in unique ways to abstract, broad, interdisciplinary issues. In Laughing
Indonesia – Southeast Asia Program [Cornell University]
Published: Oct 24, 2012
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