“Lipstick Girls” and “Fallen Women”: AIDS and Conspiratorial Thinking in Papua, Indonesia

Leslie Butt

This article begins with a critical review of debates about rumor and conspiracy theory, with particular attention to their articulation in the politically volatile climate of current-day Indonesia. I review the political situation in Papua, Indonesia’s isolated easternmost province and home to the country’s largest per capita rates of HIV and AIDS infection (see Figure 1). Ethnographic research in the town of Wamena in Jayawijaya regency reveals how Papuans use experiences from multiple fields to build conspiracy theories about AIDS and sex work in Papua. I then explore inconsistencies in institutional talk and practice with regard to AIDS prevention work and also the disjunctures in Papuan men’s desire for the stigmatized “lipstick girls” and “fallen women” of town and brothel. Insofar as these inconsistencies and disjunctures evolve from and echo conspiratorial strategies of governance in the province, they provide the building blocks for claims about Indonesian genocidal strategies.

Research Type(s)
Journal Article
Submitted by Toksave
March 21, 2021
Published in
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