Sophie Chao, Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow and Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney (Australia), discussed her book In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua (Duke University Press, 2022) in the Greenhouse environmental humanities book talk series on Monday, 26 September 2022, at the early start time of 10:00 in Norway, which is 18:00 in Sydney.
ith In the Shadow of the Palms, Sophie Chao examines the multispecies entanglements of oil palm plantations in West Papua, Indonesia, showing how Indigenous Marind communities understand and navigate the social, political, and environmental demands of the oil palm plant. As Chao notes, it is no secret that the palm oil sector has destructive environmental impacts: it greatly contributes to tropical deforestation and is a major driver of global warming. Situating the plant and the transformations it has brought within the context of West Papua’s volatile history of colonization, ethnic domination, and capitalist incursion, Chao traces 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, Chao rethinks capitalist violence as a multispecies act. In the process, Chao centers how Marind fashion their own changing worlds and foreground Indigenous creativity and decolonial approaches to anthropology.