Multispecies Mourning: Grief and resistance in an age of ecological undoing

Multispecies Mourning: Grief and resistance in an age of ecological undoing

15. 04. 2024

Seminar with Sophie Chao on Tuesday, May 21

The Department of Ecological Anthropology invites you to the third seminar of the new seminar series. Our next talk, by Sophie Chao, is entitled "Multispecies Mourning: Grief and resistance in an age of ecological undoing" (see the abstract below). The event will take place in Prague on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, commencing at 14:00 (CET) in the conference room on the fifth floor at the Institute of Ethnology, Czech Academy of Sciences. You are invited to attend in person at the IE CAS, or online via Microsoft Teams.To register for the seminar, please click here.

Abstract: We inhabit an age of ecological unmaking, wherein industrial processes are undermining conditions of life at a planetary scale. In this lecture, I consider how mourning has become a necessary – indeed, crucial – disposition of our times: one that enables us to create and commemorate connections by recognizing the vulnerability and finitude of non-human others. I do so by drawing on philosophies, practices, and protocols of “multispecies mourning” enacted by Indigenous Marind People in the Indonesian-occupied region of West Papua, where mass deforestation and monocrop oil palm expansion are undermining communities’ intimate and ancestral relations to forest landscapes and lifeforms. Specifically, I examine three emergent practices of multispecies mourning on the Papuan capitalist frontier – the weaving of sago bags as a form of collective healing, the creation of songs prompted by encounters with roadkill, and the transplanting of bamboo shoots as part of customary land reclaiming activities. Multispecies mourning, I argue, offers potent avenues for Marind to memorialize the loss of lives and relations prompted by capitalist incursions and attendant environmental crises. At the same time, these multispecies mournings constitute forms of active resistance and creative refusal in the face of extractive capitalism’s ecocidal logic. Bringing together interconnected plants, people, and places, multispecies mourning offers pathways for multispecies solidarities in the midst of capitalist extraction and violence.

Sophie Chao is Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow and Lecturer in Anthropology at Sydney University, Australia. She is author of In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua (2022) and co-editor of The Promise of Multispecies Justice (2022). Chao’s current research examines Indigenous experiences and theories of hunger in West Papua and wildlife-human entanglements in settler Australia.

We hope to see you in Prague or online!