About Me

Eben Kirksey is an American anthropologist who specializes on science and justice. Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study is hosting Kirksey in the 2019-2020 academic year, where he is conducting research on gene editing, the innovation economy, and social inequality.

Ph.D. 2008 UC Santa Cruz
M.Phil. 2003 University of Oxford
B.A. 2000 New College of Florida

Currently he is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Princeton University hosted Dr. Kirksey as the 2015-2016 Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor and he previously served as Program Head (Convener) of Environmental Humanities at UNSW Sydney.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Déjà vu in Timika

preliminary thoughts about a new ambush murder

When Papuans are murdered by Indonesia’s security forces, which has been happening with a predictable regularity ever since I began paying serious attention in 1998, the international community rarely takes notice. When whites are killed, the world starts to care.

Two days ago Drew Grant, a 29-year-old Australian national, was shot five times with what police investigators are calling “military-style weapons” along the heavily guarded road leading to Freeport McMoRan’s gold mine in West Papua. Yesterday an Indonesian security officer was also shot. A 2002 attack on the same road left one Indonesian and two U.S. schoolteachers dead. Ballistics evidence and eye-witness testimony point to an Indonesian military role in the ambush murder from seven years ago. Reading media reports published in the last few days, and talking to a couple of friends who are tracking the case on the ground, I have experienced an uncanny feeling of déjà vu.

Over the weekend there were also two Indonesian civilians murdered in the highland town of Wamena: a Javanese and a Papuan. A separate shooting, also on Saturday, took place on Yapen Island, off West Papua's north coast. Last week four Papuans were killed in the remote Mamberamo region by Indonesia’s Densus 88 unit, crack troops that recieve training from the U.S. government. Of all this recent violence, only the death of the Australian has captured the attention of major media outlets.

A “sniper” carried out the attack that killed the Australian mining employee this weekend, in the words of Indonesian national police inspector-general Nanan Sukarna. A similarly skilled marksman was at work in 2002. The first four shots that killed the two U.S. teachers, were distinct, methodical, and fatal. A group of Papuans were jailed for the 2002 attack. But, prosecutors did not muster evidence that any of the men had the technical skills to precisely target passengers in a moving vehicle.

Indonesian investigators have been quick to admit that the weapons used by the sniper the Australian man this weekend were standard issue for security forces. “It’s clear they (the attackers) were using weapons belonging to the police or the military,” said Major General Ekodanto, the Provincial Chief of Police. But others have been quick to add that these guns may have been stolen.

Papuan guerilla fighters, known by the acronym TPN, have long had access to a handful of “military-style” weapons—namely M16 and SS1 assault rifles. But a long hard look at many of these “freedom fighters” reveals that many are not really TPN, but affiliates of the TNI, the acronym for the Indonesian military. Antonius Wamang, who is currently serving a life sentence for the 2002 attack, was one such figure who mingled with government security forces in Timika’s shadow lands and even traveled with them to Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta. If you like murder mysteries, and feelings of déjà vu, click here:

KIRKSEY, S. E. & A. HARSONO. 2008. "Criminal Collaborations: Antonius Wamang and the Indonesian Military in Timika", South East Asia Research, 16 (2): 165-197.

Select Publications

Select Publications

SHAPIRO, N & E. Kirksey (2017) "Chemo-ethnography: An Introduction" Cultural Anthropology 32(4): 481-493.

KIRKSEY, S. E. (2017) "Lively Multispecies Communities, Deadly Racial Assemblages, and the Promise of Justice" South Atlantic Quarterly 116(1): 195-206.

KIRKSEY, S. E. (2015) "Species: A Praxiographic Study" Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 21, 758-780.

KIRKSEY, S. E. (2014) The Multispecies Salon, Duke University Press: Durham.

KIRKSEY, S. E. (2013) “Interspecies Love” in Lanjouw and Corbey (eds) The Politics of Species (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 164-77.

KIRKSEY, S. E., N. Shapiro, M. Brodine (2013) "Hope in Blasted Landscapes" Social Science Information, 52 (2): 228-256.

KIRKSEY, S. E. 2013 “A Messianic Multiple: West Papua, July 1998” in Bryan Turner (ed.) War and Peace: Essays on Religion and Violence (Anthem Press), pp. 37-59.

KIRKSEY, S. E. 2012 "Living with Parasites in Palo Verde National Park" Environmental Humanities, 1: 23-55.

KIRKSEY, S. E. 2012 "Thneeds Reseeds: Figures of Biocultural Hope in the Anthropocene" in G. Martin, D. Mincyte, and U. Münster (eds.) Why Do We Value Diversity? Rachel Carson Perspectives vol 9: 89-94.

KIRKSEY, S. E. 2012 Freedom in Entangled Worlds, Duke University Press: Durham.

KIRKSEY, S. E. & S. HELMREICH. 2010 "The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography", Cultural Anthropology, 25 (4): 545-576. Full Special Issue (48.8 MB)

In the News

In September 2010 Eben testified before the U.S. Congress about massacres in West Papua.

Testimony at Congressional hearing: Crimes Against Humanity from Eben Kirksey on Vimeo.

He joined Indonesian investigative reporter Andreas Harsono in 2008 to publish "Criminal Collaborations", a peer-reviewed article about Indonesian military involvement in the murder of two Americans. This research started a lively discussion in the Indonesian media and sparked a series of media articles in publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! invited Eben to discuss this research on her news show.