In the Shadow of the Palms: More-than-Human Becomings on the West Papuan Plantation Frontier


11 May 2022


Arts School Lecture Theatre A + on Zoom

In the Shadow of the Palms: More-than-Human Becomings on the West Papuan Plantation Frontier

A book talk by Sophie Chao, featuring responses from Maan Barua (Geography), Liana Chua (Social Anthropology/Malay World Studies) and Rupert Stasch (Social Anthropology)

Hosted by The Global Lives of the Orangutan (Department of Social Anthropology), the Tunku/Malay World Studies research community (St Catharine’s College) and Centre for South Asian Studies

11 May 2022 – 5.00-6.30 pm

Arts School Lecture Theatre A (link to map here)  + on Zoom (register at

In this talk, Dr Sophie Chao will draw on her forthcoming book, In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua (Duke University Press, 2022) to explore how Indigenous Marind communities in the Indonesian-controlled province of West Papua understand and navigate the social, political, and environmental demands of the oil palm plant. Situating the recent proliferation of oil palm plantations in West Papua within the context of the region’s volatile history of colonisation, ethnic domination, and capitalist incursion, Sophie Chao will trace how Marind attribute environmental destruction not just to humans, technologies, and capitalism, but also to the volition and actions of the oil palm plant itself. By approaching cash crops as both drivers of destruction and subjects of human exploitation, she will problematise violence as a more-than-human act, while centering how Marind fashion their own changing worlds and foreground Indigenous creativity and decolonial approaches to anthropology.

Please download poster here


Dr Sophie Chao is Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) Fellow and Lecturer in Anthropology at The University of Sydney. Her research investigates the intersections of Indigeneity, ecology, capitalism, health, and justice in the Pacific. Sophie Chao previously worked for the human rights organization Forest Peoples Programme in Indonesia, supporting the rights of forest-dwelling Indigenous peoples to their customary lands, resources, and livelihoods. For more information, please visit


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