environmental anthropologist & environmental humanities scholar
I am an environmental anthropologist and environmental humanities scholar interested in the intersections of capitalism, ecology, Indigeneity, health, and justice in the Pacific. I am currently a Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) Fellow and Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Sydney. Prior to my academic career, I worked for the Indigenous rights organization Forest Peoples Programme in the United Kingdom and Indonesia. I am keen to forge meaningful collaborations and conversations with Indigenous and decolonial academics, artists, and activists in Australia and beyond, towards a better understanding of and relation to, morethanhuman worlds. For more, check out the morethanhuman matters interview series, or subscribe to the mailing list.
We live in an epoch of species extinction, ecological destruction, and precarious futures for humans and for the myriad other-than-human lifeforms that our existence and wellbeing depend upon. Addressing the anthropogenic crisis demands that we recognize and protect the morethanhuman worlds that we inherit, inhabit, and pass on. Morethanhuman worlds encompass plants, animals, elements, climates, and humans who unequally bear the burden of ecological ruin and repair. These worlds invite us to rethink the diverse entanglements of humans with otherthanhuman life, matter, and meaning. Making and remaking such morethanhuman worlds requires care, courage, creativity, and collaboration, as we work towards more livable shared futures.
Duke University Press, 2022
Recipient of the Duke University Press Scholars of Color First Book Award
“The stories Sophie Chao tells in this amazing book are mesmerizing, and her interpretation of them is clear and powerful. She makes a major contribution to the intersection of multispecies and posthumanist scholarship and critical BIPOC studies in ways that could shape imaginations both in and beyond the academy. Brilliant, insightful, and meticulous, In the Shadow of the Palms will be an influential and important book.” — Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, coeditor of Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene
June 2022 | ISBN: 978-1-4780-1824-7
Use coupon code E22CHAO to save 30% when ordering from dukeupress.edu
Hau Books/Chicago University Press, 2023
Hunger explores how Indigenous Marind communities in Indonesian New Guinea sense and make sense of hunger in the context of intensifying industrial plantation expansion and the perduring violence of settler-colonial rule. Drawing on long-term investigative and ethnographic fieldwork conducted in rural Merauke, Chao reveals how waning forest ecologies give rise to complex ecologies of hunger, with ambivalent effects on Indigenous food identities, relations, and environments. In attending to its dispersed and disputed ontology, Chao theorizes hunger as a multiple, more-than-human, and morally imbued mode of being—one no less culturally and historically situated than food and eating. In doing so, Chao invites a vital reimagination of metabolic justice and relations of eating and being eaten in an epoch of planetary unraveling.
Forthcoming with Hau Books, Chicago University Press
Duke University Press, 2022
Contributor(s): Margaret Leanne (M. L.) Clark, Radhika Govindrajan, Zsuzsanna Ihar, Noriko Ishiyama, Elizabeth Lara, Jia Hui Lee, Kristina M. Lyons, Michael Marder, Alyssa Paredes, Craig Santos Perez, Kim Tallbear
“Questions of the ecological and biopolitical raise questions of justice—environmental, racial, restorative, reparative, transformative, recognition-based, transitional, generative, abolitionist, participatory. The essays and interventions in this decisively frame-shifting collection engage with the entangled bank of justice relations with commitment and care, asking who benefits, who is harmed, and who counts in projects in which matters of multifariously embodied life are at stake.” — Stefan Helmreich, author of Sounding the Limits of Life: Essays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond
October 2022 | ISBN: 978-1-4780-1889-6
Use coupon code E22PRMSE to save 30% at dukeupress.edu
Forest Peoples Programme, Sawit Watch, and TUK Indonesia, 2013
Growing demand for palm oil is fueling the large-scale expansion of oil palm plantations across Southeast Asia and Africa. Concerns about the environmental and social impacts of monocrops led in 2004 to the establishment of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which encourages oil palm expansion in ways that do not destroy high conservation values or cause social conflict. In line with international law, member companies must respect the collective right of Indigenous peoples and other local communities to give or withhold their consent prior to the development of oil palm on the lands they own, inhabit and use. This edited volume draws on sixteen independent case studies from seven countries in Asia and Africa to assess whether companies are keeping their promises.
November 2013 | ISBN: 978-0-9544252-7-2 | read online
Forest Peoples Programme and SawitWatch, 2011
Palm oil is a basic ingredient of much of the processed food we eat and the most widely used oil in cosmetics and household cleaners. At the same time, the careless development of oil palm is destroying forests, wiping out endangered species, polluting air and waterways, driving climate change, dispossessing Indigenous peoples, and immiserating the rural poor. This edited volume documents in detail, and for the first time, how oil palm plantations are expanding in different ways across South East Asia. It complements experiences in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea with new investigative case studies of the processes of oil palm expansion in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. This volume is the sixth in a series of reports published by the Forest Peoples Programme and SawitWatch, and other partners, about the social implications of oil palm expansion.
November 2011 | 978-979-15188-6-4 | read online
Forest Peoples Programme and Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), 2011
The forests of Southeast Asia are home to tens of millions of people whose rights to lands are only weakly secured in national constitutions and laws. International human rights treaties now affirm the rights of Indigenous peoples and clearly recognize their rights to own and control the lands, territories, and natural resources that they have traditionally owned, occupied, or otherwise used. This volume reveals how the majority of Southeast Asian countries already have plural legal systems in place and that the basis for securing Indigenous peoples' rights through a revalidation of customary law exists. Through detailed case studies, the volume foregrounds legal pluralism as a central element within Indigenous peoples' struggle for the recognition of their rights.
November 2011 | ISBN: 978-616-90611-7-5 | read online
a radio interview on In the Shadow of the Palms, featured on Radical Australia - 3CR Community Radio. With Joe Toscano and Kelly Whitworth. 31 August 2022.
a podcast with Sebastián Ureta, co-author of Worlds of Gray and Green, in conversation with Thom van Dooren, Susan Park, and Sophie Chao, hosted by the Sydney Environment Institute. 18 August 2022.
a blog piece on Indigenous Peoples and biocultural diversity, published by Duke University Press on International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. 9 August 2022.