This article explores how indigenous Marind of West Papua conceptualize the radical socio-environmental transformations wrought by large-scale deforestation and oil palm expansion on their customary lands and forests. Within the ecology of the Marind lifeworld, oil palm constitutes a particular kind of person, endowed with particular agencies and affects. Its unwillingness to participate in symbiotic socialities with other species jeopardizes the well-being of the life forms populating a dynamic multispecies cosmology, including humans. Drawing from ontological theories and the multispecies approach, I show how people in a remote place engage with adverse environmental transformations enacted by an other-than-human actor. Assumptions of human exceptionalism come under question in the context of a vegetal being that is exceptional in its own particular and destructive ways. Arguing for greater attention to other-than-human species that are unloving rather than unloved, I explore the epistemological frictions that arise from combining the anthropology of ontology with multispecies ethnography. I also attend to the implications of these theoretical positions in the real world of advocacy for those struggling in and against growing social and ecological precariousness.
Bibliographical noteCopyright the Publisher 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.
- anthropology of ontology
- multispecies ethnography
- oil palm
- West Papua