The plastic cassowary: problematic 'pets' in West Papua

Sophie Chao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the ambivalent relations of indigenous Marind to domesticated animals in Merauke District, West Papua. Marind pity village animals because they lose their ‘wildness’ and behave like human settlers, whom Marind consider alien because of their ‘modern’ lifestyle and non-Papuan origins. These transformations evoke to Marind their own experiences of political oppression and ethnic domination as coerced subjects of the Indonesian state. However, domesticates also appear to enjoy living in the village and refuse to return to the wild. Similarly, many Marind are drawn by the promises of modernity and have given up hope for political freedom. Furthermore, Marind themselves replicate the oppressive role of the state over their lives by subjecting animals to human control. In this light, domesticates as ‘matter out of place’ in the village environment provoke pity and anxiety because they offer an all too faithful reflection of the ambiguous condition of their keepers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)828-848
Number of pages21
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Marind
  • matter out of place
  • plastic
  • West Papua
  • wildness


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