OSA lunchtime lecture series | Tuesday 28 January 2020
Dr. Sophie Chao | The University of Sydney
Plants as Kin, Plants as Foe: Sago and Oil Palm Ontologies in Indonesian West Papua
Drawing from long-term ethnographic fieldwork in rural West Papua, Chao examines how indigenous Marind communities conceptualize plants as particular kinds of persons within a multispecies cosmology. Specifically, she examines the moral, biotic, and ecological contrasts Marind identify between native sago palm and introduced oil palm in the context of widespread deforestation and agribusiness expansion in West Papua. Each of these plants, Chao demonstrates, accrues multi-layered political and cultural significance for Marind in light of broader processes of indigenous dispossession and ongoing colonization that shape the geopolitics of West Papua. Drawing from multispecies ethnography and related posthumanist currents, Chao argues that oil palm – an introduced, “settler” cash crop in Merauke – comes to represent in sensory, contested, and more-than-human ways, the destructive yet promissory lure of capitalist modernity for indigenous Marind communities.
Dr. Sophie Chao is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Sydney’s School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry and the Charles Perkins Center. She received her PhD from Macquarie University (with Vice-Chancellor’s Commendation) in 2019 and holds a BA in Oriental Studies and a MSc in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford. Sophie’s research explores the intersections of capitalism, ecology, and indigeneity in Indonesia. Her postdoctoral project deploys inter-disciplinary methods to explore the nutritional and cultural impacts of agribusiness on indigenous food-based socialities, identities, and ecologies. For more information on Sophie’s research, please visit www.morethanhumanworlds.com
SOPHI Common Room 882,
Brennan MacCallum Building A18
Click here for map