Accepted Paper:

Deadly life: the ontology of oil palm from Marind perspectives  
Sophie Chao (University of Sydney)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the ontology of oil palm among Marind in Merauke. Drawing from the methods and concerns of multispecies ethnography, I demonstrate how Marinds' heterogenous perspectives on oil palm as lively yet lethal capital challenge us to rethink capitalism in 'beyond the human' terms.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores how indigenous Marind conceptualize oil palm, a cash crop grown in monocrop plantations in Merauke (West Papua), whose proliferation destroys native forest ecologies and lifeforms. Widespread speculation among my interlocutors over the needs and wants of oil palm stems from the fact that the plant itself is seen (and feared) by many as a willful and deadly actant. Yet Marind also pity oil palm because its own life is subjected to totalizing human exploitation and manipulation. The plant is both a driver and a victim of violence inequitably distributed across and within species lines. I argue that giving center stage to commodified plants such as oil palm reveals their ambivalent ontology as lively yet lethal capital. Drawing from the methods and concerns of multispecies ethnography, I demonstrate how Marind perspectives on the 'deadly' life of oil palm challenge us to rethink capitalism and its effects in 'beyond the human' terms.

Panel P27
Surviving entanglements in West Papua [Combined format]