Sophie Chao

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Sydney, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9942

Approve Date

October 24, 2019

Project Title

Chao, Sophie (Sydney, U. of) "Capitalism beyond the Human: The Multispecies World of Oil Palm"

SOPHIE CHAO, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, was awarded funding in October 2019 to aid research on “Capitalism beyond the Human: The Multispecies World of Oil Palm.” This project interweaves environmental anthropology, Indigenous theory, and plant science to investigate the multispecies lifeworld of oil palm, one of the world’s most ubiquitous and controversial cash crops. The project examined how monocrop regimes are shaped by the knowledges and practices of agronomic scientists and the biological attributes of oil palm as vegetal organism and industrial cash crop. This secondary and archival research-based component was complemented by ethnographic fieldwork conducted by an Indigenous Research Assistant in West Papuan. This fieldwork investigated how Indigenous Marind inhabiting the Papuan monocrop frontier conceptualize oil palm’s ecological relations and impacts against the backdrop of ongoing political colonization, ethnic domination, and capitalist incursion. The project draws on inter-species relations of domination and subordination in plantationscapes to rethink intra-species relations in a region where Indigenous peoples are treated as sub-human and killable before the law. Attending to the complex intersections of race, ecology, and culture, the project highlights the importance of attending equally to the politics within, and not just the poetics of, more-than-human relations in emergent capitalist natures and their broader (settler-)colonial contexts


Chao, Sophie. 2022. In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua. Duke University Press