Elizabeth F. Drexler is Assistant Professor of Anthropology
at Michigan State University where she is a core faculty
member of the Culture, Resources and Power Program and sits
on the advisory committee for the Peace and Justice Studies
specialization. Most broadly, her research and teaching
explore the process by which the transnational terms and
institutions of civil society, governance, and humanitarianism
circulate through global networks and are translated into
specific social, political, historical and national contexts.
In particular, she explores how such institutions authorize,
produce and mediate historical truths, traumas, legal evidence,
and individual subjectivities.
Dr. Drexler completed her Ph.D. at the University of Washington,
Seattle in December 2001. Her interests in political violence
and transitions are informed by several years of field research
and training in Indonesia during a time of post-authoritarian
transition (supported by grants from Fulbright-Hays and
the Blakemore Foundation). Experience as a policy analyst
in Indonesia inspired her interests in the production and
circulation of knowledge and expertise about political violence
and international interventions. She is currently completing
her project, Securing the Insecure State, which examines
the politics of military accountability, state legitimacy
and international humanitarian interventions as they intersect
with the violent legacies of Soeharto's New Order rule to
create violent separatist conflict in Aceh province.
"Exposing Violations, Extending Violence: The Politics
of Neutrality and Expertise" (In progress)
"Provoking Separatism, Authenticating Violence: Aceh's
Humanitarian Pause" Forthcoming in Charles Coppel,
Ed. Violent Conflicts in Indonesia (London: Curzon
"Paranoid Transparencies: Aceh's Historical Grievance
And Indonesia's Failed Reform" Ph. D. Dissertation,
Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, December
"Indonesia: Justice and Reconciliation" International
Crisis Group Report, September
The Role of Historical Narratives in Extending or Ending
Cycles of Violence in Indonesia
This project aims to (1) design a methodology for determining
the role of historical narratives in extending or ending
cycles of violence that appear to be rooted in ethnic, religious,
cultural or other forms of identity; and (2) develop a theoretical
framework for exploring the complex relationship between
judicial institutions and historical narratives. This research
takes an innovative, multi-disciplinary approach to the
critical challenge of ending cycles of violence in a particular
region: Indonesia and East Timor.
Anthropological methods are especially suited to understanding
the social process of how official transitional initiatives
succeed or fail to reconcile communities and resolve conflicts.
This project relies on a combination of ethnographic methods,
policy analysis, and archival research to isolate variables
that produce conflicts in Indonesia that appear to be spontaneous
ethno-nationalist, sectarian, vigilantism, or cultural violence.
These variables will be tested in an analysis of violence
perpetrated in East Timor during the 1999 U.N. supervised
referendum for independence from Indonesia. I will discuss
the results of this research with Indonesian scholars and
policy makers to generate possible strategies for developing
concrete initiatives to address the legacies of past violence.
Articles for the popular media and reports regarding the
research will be co-authored in Indonesian language to disseminate
the results of the research with the Indonesian public.
Indonesia has experienced myriad forms of violent conflict
during its transition period; this project will isolate
variables that contribute to the success or failure of violent
provocations and reconciliation initiatives in different
contexts. Comparative analysis of different conflict situations
in Indonesia will contribute to the New Century Scholars
Program mandate to discern how certain variables generate
violent conflict in certain cases, but not in other cases.