As Public Sociologists we believe that it is vital for us to be actively engaged with people in our “publics” and to conduct research and provide support that would best meet the needs of the people within these “publics”. With this resolve, our student organization, the Public Sociology Association, has adopted a yearly flagship cause that we promote in an attempt to raise awareness on the issue. For the 2011- 2012 school year we have selected West Papua as our focus and are highlighting the turmoil that exists in this region at our first annual conference. West Papua, officially recognized as a region of Indonesia, is a site of contested political, environmental, and social space where the voices of the most vulnerable members of society are often left out of the debate.
This is evident in the strict criminalization of West Papuans who are peacefully voicing political concerns, holding demonstrations, or even for simply raising a politically alternative flag. This criminalization and strict enforcement by security forces has resulted in ongoing human rights violations against the Papuan community and has gained the attention of the international community and many NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In an effort to support the voices of the Papuan people, we have set up two information tables out in the lobby where you can get more information on the issues, learn how to become involved as a public sociologist, and speak with West Papuan Activist Leader, Herman Wainggai.