Department of Anthropology’s recent PhD graduate, Dr Sophie Chao, has been awarded Vice-Chancellor's Commendation for her thesis.

Entitled, “In Shadow of the Palms: Plant-Human Relations among Marind-Anim, West Papua”.

In his commendation letter to Sophie, Vice -Chancellor Professor Bruce Dowton congratulated her for the incredible achievement and wished her success for future.

Supervised by Dr Jaap Timmer, Sophie's thesis explores how indigenous Marind-Anim of West Papua conceptualize and engage with the socio-environmental impacts of oil palm expansion. Sophie analyses how oil palm reconfigures the lifeworld of Marind through its effects on the landscape, on time, on Marinds’ relations to plants and animals, and on Marinds’ dreams. Among her key findings, Sophie notes how widespread speculation among Marind over the attributes and effects of oil palm stems from the fact that the plant itself is seen (and feared) as a willful and destructive actant. By giving center stage to plants as ‘lethal capital’ and their ambivalent relations to humans, the thesis invites us to rethink capitalism and violence beyond the human.

Sophie said, “I am delighted to receive this award and deeply grateful to the Marind communities I worked with for making this research possible. I also thank my supervisors, Jaap Timmer, Eve Vincent, and Eben Kirksey, for the wonderful moral and academic support they provided me throughout my doctoral studies. Macquarie has been a truly stimulating environment for me, both personally and intellectually - a big thanks to the department of anthropology and to the Australian Ministry of Education and Training for funding my studies”.

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Last updated: 17 Dec 2019