Stockholm university logo, link to start page

Open Seminar: In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua


Date: Monday 9 May 2022

Time: 14.00 – 15.30

Location: TBC

Sophie Chao, University of Sydney.

Front of the book In the Shadow of the Palms.
In the Shadow of the Palms, by Sophie Chao.

With 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.

Portrait photo of Sophie Chao.

Sophie Chao is Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) Fellow and Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sydney. Her research investigates the intersections of Indigeneity, ecology, capitalism, health, and justice in the Pacific. Sophie 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

The seminar is co-organised by the Department of Social Anthropology and Stockholm Center for Global Asia.