Over the last decade, indigenous Marind communities in the rural district of Merauke, West Papua, have seen vast swaths of their forests and savannas razed to make way for monocrop oil palm plantations. These developments are promoted by the Indonesian government as part of efforts to achieve national self-sufficiency in basic commodities, including palm oil, sugar, and rice. On the ground, however, agribusiness expansion is undermining the local food and water security of Marind communities, who have traditionally relied on the forest for their subsistence.
Dr Sophie Chao spoke to Dr Natali Pearson about the interconnections between processed food, hunger and Indigenous sovereignty in West Papua.
About Sophie Chao:
Sophie joined the University of Sydney as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in History in 2019. Her research interests include human-plant relations, multispecies ethnography, race and human difference, ontological anthropology, biocapitalism, colonial and postcolonial studies, post-humanism, phenomenology, and the senses.
Sophie previously worked for international indigenous rights organization Forest Peoples Programme in the United Kingdom and Indonesia and has published over thirty works on human rights and the palm oil sector in Southeast Asia. She has 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.
Sophie's postdoctoral project will weave together social science methods (including history), science and technology studies, and biomedicine to examine the nutritional and health impacts of agribusiness on humans and their environments in Indonesia. Sophie is also interested in research development more generally and looks forward to engaging in inter-disciplinary collaboration on food, culture, and nutrition with members of the Department of History, the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, other departments in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences more generally, and the Charles Perkins Centre.
You can follow Dr Sophie Chao on Twitter @Sophie_MH_Chao
View the transcript here: https://bit.ly/3b8Ha37