Jonathan McLeod is a PhD Candidate in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. His interest in studying environmental issues in Indonesia has roots during his high school years spent in Singapore, when he experienced the effects of the massive El Nino forest fires of 1998 during the fall of the Suharto regime. His doctoral works explores the intersection of environmental conservation, development, and indigenous land rights and identity in West Papua, Indonesia. This little explored and rapidly developing region of Indonesia is becoming a rising priority for global climate change initiatives due to Papua's vast tracts of remaining forests. Since March of 2017, Jonathan has conducted ethnographic research in collaboration with the Abun people in Tambrauw, a “kabupaten konservasi” that is one of Indonesia’s poorest districts. As the Abun and Tambrauw's other tribes seek alternative and culturally appropriate pathways to prosperity, a key component of their efforts is integrating, and even reviving, indigenous traditions. For many Papuans, this is changing a centuries-old narrative about the supposed incompatibility of indigenous culture and progress, yet also means such peoples face challenging questions about how to “develop” while maintaining their identity and values. He expects to wrap up research for his dissertation at the beginning of next year, and is already at work on several journal publications.
For an example of Jonathan's writing, click here.