environmental anthropologist & multispecies ethnographer
Hello and welcome to morethanhumanworlds
I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Sydney’s School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry. My research explores the intersections of capitalism, ecology, Indigeneity, health, and justice in the Pacific. In particular, I'm interested in changing human-environment relations across Indigenous, corporate, and scientific contexts. My theoretical thinking is inspired by interdisciplinary currents including multispecies ethnography and the environmental humanities, as well as Indigenous Studies, Critical Race Studies, and Science and Technology Studies. I'm now embarking on a new project that will investigate the nutritional and cultural impacts of agribusiness on Indigenous food-based socialities, identities, and ecologies.
Prior to my PhD, I worked for international Indigenous rights organization Forest Peoples Programme in the United Kingdom and Indonesia. I have also undertaken consultancies for United Nations bodies including the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises.
I am currently Secretary on the Executive Committee of the Australian Anthropological Society, Co-Convenor of the Australian Food, Society, and Culture Network, Co-Convener of the Biopolitics of Science Research Network, and Co-Convenor of the Multispecies Justice HDR/ECR Collective.
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 morethanhumanworlds mailing list.
We live in an era in which humans have become the single most influential geological force on the planet. This epoch, coined the Anthropocene, is also one of mass 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 will require nothing less than recognizing and protecting the morethanhuman worlds that we inherit, inhabit, and eventually pass on.
Morethanhuman worlds encompass plants, animals, elements, climates, and differently situated human communities that unequally bear the burden of ecological ruin and repair. Importantly, morethanhuman 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 within and across species lines towards more livable shared futures.
Chao, Sophie. 2021. “Eating and Being Eaten: The Meanings of Hunger among Marind.” Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Illness and Health. DOI:10.1080/01459740.2021.1916013. Read it here.
Chao, Sophie. 2021. “The Beetle or the Bug? Multispecies Politics in a West Papuan Oil Palm Plantation.” American Anthropologist. Coming soon.
Chao, Sophie. 2019. “Wrathful Ancestors, Corporate Sorcerers: Rituals Gone Rogue in Merauke, West Papua.” Oceania. 89(3): 266 – 283. DOI:10.1002/ocea.5229. Read it here.
Chao, Sophie. 2018. “In the Shadow of the Palm: Dispersed Ontologies among Marind, West Papua.” Cultural Anthropology. 33(4): 621 – 649. DOI:10.14506/ca33.4.08. Read it here.
Chao, Sophie. 2017. “There Are No Straight Lines in Nature”: Making Living Maps in West Papua.” Anthropology Now. 9(1): 16 – 33. DOI:10.1080/19428200.2017.1291014. Read it here.
Chao, Sophie. 2021. “Children of the Palms: Growing Plants and Growing People in a Papuan Plantationocene.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 27(2): 245 - 264. DOI:10.1111/1467-9655.13489. Read it here.
Chao, Sophie. 2020. “A Tree of Many Lives: Vegetal Teleontologies in West Papua.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. 10(2): 514 – 529. DOI:10.1086/709505. Read it here.
Chao, Sophie. 2019. “The Plastic Cassowary: Problematic “Pets” in West Papua.” Ethnos. 84 (5): 828 – 848. DOI:10.1080/00141844.2018.1502798. Read it here.
Chao, Sophie. 2018. “Seed Care in the Oil Palm Sector.” Environmental Humanities. 10(2): 421 – 446. DOI:10.1215/22011919-7156816. Read it here.
SELECTED MEDIA FEATURES
Below are selected essays, interviews, and podcasts featured in national, international, print, and online media outlets.
MORE-THAN-HUMAN: AN INTERVIEW ON NATURE, CULTURE, AND INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE
21 Feb 2021
An interview on plant-human relations in West Papua, published by Kunsthistorisches Institute in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut.
With Sanja Savkic.
27 Jan 2021
A reflection on storying crisis, loss, and co-existence, inspired by the Sydney Festival Requiem panel, "An Endangered Menagerie."
Published by the Sydney Environment Institute.
PROPOSED BASED FOR ELON MUSK'S SPACEX PROJECT THREATENS LANDS AND LIVELIHOODS IN BIAK, PAPUA
15 May 2021
An op-ed on the potential impacts of the SpaceX project in Biak, West Papua, published by TRT World.