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EEHN | SPSS Social Anthropology hosted talk by Sophie Chao (University of Sydney) 14 May

EEHN | SPSS Social Anthropology hosted talk by Sophie Chao (University of Sydney) 14 May

More-than-human relations in the plantation nexus: A view from the Papuan oil palm frontier

Tuesday 14th May, 2.00pm – 3.30pm, Dugald Stewart Building, Room 1.20

The family of the land owner lives on the edge of the oil palm estate. They become laborers on their own land. (Location: Getentiri, Jair District, Boven Digul, Papua)

Recent years have seen a resurgence of interdisciplinary interest in the topic of the plantation–an industrial formation and enduring logic that has been instrumental to the rise of colonial racial capitalism and the construction of modern nations and natures. In this talk, Dr Chao will draw on long-term fieldwork conducted on the West Papuan oil palm frontier to examine how Indigenous Marind communities experience, theorize, and critique the impacts of plantation modernities on their rapidly changing lifeworlds. Central to these experiences and theories, the talk will illustrate, are an array of more-than-human actors whose meaning, mattering, and morality are shaped by their alternately indexical, antagonistic, or ambiguous relationship to Marind themselves. Set against the backdrop of West Papua’s regional history of settler-colonial incursion and the plantation’s global history of racializing violence, the paper will argue that Marind philosophies of more-than-human becoming constitute a form of epistemic resistance to the simplifying, hierarchizing, and disciplining logic of plantation regimes past and present.

Sophie Chao is Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Sydney. Her research investigates the intersections of Indigeneity, ecology, capitalism, health, and justice in the Pacific. Chao is author of In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua and co-editor of The Promise of Multispecies Justice. She is of Sino-French heritage and lives on unceded Gadigal lands in Australia. For more, visit


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