Book Review: In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua. Sophie Chao. Duke University Press, 2022
Corresponding Author(s) : Carter Beale
Forest and Society,
Vol. 7 No. 1 (2023): APRIL
In the Shadow of the Palms offers a haunting and novel perspective on themes of dispossession and alienation wrought by the expansion of oil palm agribusiness in Indonesia. Drawing on fieldwork with a Marind community in the Upper Bian in West Papua, the text endeavors to describe such dispossessory dynamics from an embodied Marind ontology. Meticulous descriptions of interactions with various animal and plant species evidence a profound intersubjectivity of human and environment in the Marind world. Moreover, these encounters with multi-species entanglements often reveal how the Marind accommodate and assimilate the spiritual and material incursions inflicted by expanding oil palm production. Chao's argument takes issue with recent theoretical trends in multispecies studies for their failure to engage "with Indigenous ontologies and epistemologies, its limited consideration of the "human" category in the context of racializing assemblages, its uncritical celebration of interspecies entanglements, and its insufficient attention to unloving (rather than loved species, and its failure to approach violence itself as a multispecies act)." The evidence Chao provides in the form of thick ethnographic description and songs translations, stories, and dream accounts convincingly complicates the tendency to generalize plant-beings as either benevolent helpers, enigmatic tricksters, or passive, neutral fixtures. The reader is forced to reckon with oil palm as a causal agent implicit in the devastation of forests and rivers fouled by chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and the haunted dreams and bodies of the Marind people.
Marind oil palm plant turn posthumanism multispecies relations dark anthropology community-led participatory mapping plant-human entanglements multispecies violence
Beale, C. (2023). Book Review: In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua. Sophie Chao. Duke University Press, 2022. Forest and Society, 7(1), 1-4. https://doi.org/10.24259/fs.v7i1.24765
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- Chao, S. (2022). In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua. Duke University Press.
Chao, S. (2022). In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua. Duke University Press.