When I started research for this book, I planned to study West Papuan re-
sistance to Indonesian rule and the forces of globalization. Unexpected
discoveries forced me to rethink the terms of my research. Collaboration,
rather than resistance, turned out to be the primary strategy of this political
movement. West Papuan revolutionaries demonstrated an uncanny knack
for getting inside institutions of power. Building coalitions with unlikely
allies—making strategic engagements with foreign governments, multi-
national corporations, and even elite Indonesian politicians—they brought
specific political goals within reach. Yet as West Papuans achieved near-
term objectives, they found that the politics of collaboration restricted the
scope and scale of their interventions. In the face of impossibility, people
began to harbor seemingly unrealistic dreams.
This book explores a series of interrelated questions: What are the pros-
pects of finding limited rights and justice while trapped within unwanted
entanglements? When worlds are at war, bent on mutual annihilation, why
do people collaborate across lines separating enemies from allies? How does
one find freedom in an era of global interdependence, when national sov-
ereignty and independence are inherently compromised? In short, I argue
that freedom emerges when people collaborate with existing institutions
of power while imagining sweeping transformations on future horizons.
Imaginative dreams bring surprising prospects into view when translated
into collaborative action.1
Strategies of collaboration or purely imaginary dreams often fail when
they operate alone. Collaboration, by itself, can quickly lead to co- optation.
Hope can produce paralysis. Passively waiting for dreams to be fulfilled
without taking steps to actualize them resigns the future to fate.2 This book
chronicles the history of indigenous activists who wed collaboration with
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