The Promise of Multispecies Justice
Dr Sophie Chao (University of Sydney)
Tuesday 8 March 2022, 8:30am – 10:30am GMT.
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Early work in the interdisciplinary field of multispecies studies described how symbiotic associations and the mingling of creative agents generated emergent ecological communities. Justice and injustice were part of the conversation since the field’s inception, but these concerns were ancillary to early texts, rather than the central focus. More recently, sympathetic criticism of multispecies ethnography has led many scholars to build on classic insights about how human existence is bound together with the lives of animals, plants, microbes, and fungi, in order to address emergent intersectionalities between social, environmental, racial, and multispecies justice. Drawing on an ongoing research project titled The Promise of Multispecies Justice, and involving experts in cultural anthropology, geography, philosophy, science fiction, poetry, and fine art, this presentation tracks the contours of justice through the lives and struggles of gardeners, anti-racist activists, and Indigenous peoples, and the urban and rural poor in Asia, the Caucasus, Africa, and the Americas to ask: Who are the subjects of justice in our shared worlds? What counts as nature, for whom, and at what cost? In what ways does justice manifest within and beyond the structures of law and language? And how does expanding the scope of justice beyond the human and the law invite new possibilities for decolonizing multispecies relations, but also the concept and practice of justice itself?
Dr Sophie Chao is Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) Fellow and Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney. Her anthropological and interdisciplinary research investigates the intersections of Indigeneity, ecology, capitalism, health, and justice in the Pacific. Dr Chao 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. Her book, In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua, received the Duke University Press Scholars of Color First Book Award in 2021 and is forthcoming with Duke University Press in July 2022. For more information about Dr Chao’s research, please visit www.morethanhumanworlds.com.
Funded by a British Academy Seed Funding Grant 2021