Cornell University

We are (not) Monkeys: Raciality, Animality, and Cosmopolitical Struggles in Indonesian West Papua

Thursday, February 9, 2023 at 6:00pm

Virtual Event

Gatty Lecture Series

Join us for a talk by Sophie Chao (Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow and Lecturer in the Discipline of Anthropology, University of Sydney).

This Gatty Lecture will take place on Zoom onlyFor questions, contact seapgatty@cornell.edu. 

Participate by Zoom here.

About the Talk

In 2019 anti-racism protests erupted across the Indonesian-controlled region of West Papua. Organized largely by Papuan students, the protests expressed Papuans’ deep-seated frustration with their oppression under Indonesian rule since the early 1960s. In this seminar, Dr Chao will examine how Papuan demonstrators from the district of Merauke repurposed the racialized figure of the monkey—a species routinely deployed in Indonesian discourse to deprecate Papuans as primitive and backward—to support their demands for emancipation from Indonesian rule and to redeem nonhuman beings as consequential and meaningful entities in their own right.

Chao will then situate this specific example against other contexts of multispecies relationality among the Indigenous Marind communities of Merauke, West Papua, whose lives and experiences on an emergent oil palm frontier form the topic of her recent book, In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua (2022, Duke University Press). In doing so, Chao will demonstrate how the symbolic mobilization of different animals and plants by Papuan activists foregrounds the more-than-human dimensions of their struggle for social, racial, and multispecies justice—one in which humans and nonhumans sit in alternately indexical or antithetical relation to each other as contested cosmopolitical actors and world makers.

About the Speaker

Sophie Chao is Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow and Lecturer in the Discipline of Anthropology at the University of Sydney. Her research investigates the intersections of Indigeneity, ecology, capitalism, health, and justice in the Pacific. Sophie is author of In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua (2022), which received the Duke University Press Scholars of Color First Book Award in 2021, and co-editor of The Promise of Multispecies Justice (2022), also published by Duke University Press. 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 about Sophie’s research, please visit www.morethanhumanworlds.com.

Dial-In Information

https://cornell.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAsdO-upzgjHdYzqB9JDCap9lucXyr6ztZZ

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