Dr Sophie Chao

BA Oxford MSc Oxford PhD Macquarie
Postdoctoral Research Associate in History

Member of China Studies Centre

Member of Sydney Environment Institute

Member of Sydney Southeast Asia Centre

Member of the Charles Perkins Centre

A14 - The Quadrangle
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9351 5039
Fax +61 2 9351 3918

Website Academia.edu - profile
Phonebook Entry
Curriculum vitae Curriculum vitae

Biographical details

Sophie is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Sydney’s School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry and the Charles Perkins Centre.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Oriental Studies (First Class) and a Master of Science in Social Anthropology from The University of Oxford. Sophie’s PhD at Macquarie University was funded by an International Endeavour Scholarship and received a Vice-Chancellor’s Commendation in 2019.

Sophie’s research explores the intersections of capitalism, ecology, and indigeneity in Indonesia, with a specific focus on changing interspecies relations in the context of deforestation and agribusiness development. Her current research deploys inter-disciplinary methods to explore the nutritional and cultural impacts of agribusiness on indigenous food-based socialities, identities, and ecologies.

Research interests

Sophie’s research interests include human-plant relations, multispecies ethnography, race and human difference, ontological anthropology, biocapitalism, colonial and postcolonial studies, post-humanism, phenomenology, and the senses.

Sophie’s academic research has appeared in top-ranking anthropological and inter-disciplinary journals including Cultural Anthropology (2018), Ethnos (2018), Environmental Humanities (2018), and Anthropology Now (2016). She has given guest lectures and talks on human rights and agribusiness at policy-making and academic fora in France, Australia, Indonesia, and Thailand, and organized multi-stakeholder conferences on this topic in Indonesia, Myanmar Cambodia, Thailand, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sophie has also written and/or spoken about indigenous rights and agribusiness for popular media outlets including The Jakarta Post and The Ecologist, and has been interviewed by New Scientist, Voice of America, and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

Sophie previously worked for international indigenous rights organization Forest Peoples Programme in the United Kingdom and Indonesia and has published over thirty works on human rights and the palm oil sector in Southeast Asia. She has also undertaken consultancies for United Nations bodies including the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises.

Sophie’s edited and co-edited volumes include Conflict or Consent? The Palm Oil Sector at a Crossroads (2013), Agribusiness Large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Human Rights in Southeast Asia (2013), Human Rights and Agribusiness: Plural Legal Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Institutional Strengthening, and Legal Reform (2012), Diverse Paths to Justice: Legal Pluralism and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Southeast Asia (2011), and Oil Palm Expansion in Southeast Asia: Trends and Implications for Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples (2011).

Sophie's postdoctoral project will weave together social science methods (including history), science and technology studies, and biomedicine to examine the nutritional and health impacts of agribusiness on humans and their environments in Indonesia. Sophie is also interested in research development more generally and looks forward to engaging in inter-disciplinary collaboration on food, culture, and nutrition with members of the Department of History, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences more generally, and the Charles Perkins Centre.

Teaching and supervision

Courses previously taught:

  • Introduction to Social Anthropology

  • Theory in Social Science

  • Medical Anthropology

  • Ecological Anthropology

  • Psychological Anthropology

Associations

  • Member, Royal Society of New South Wales
  • Honorary Postdoctoral Fellow, Macquarie University (2019 – 2021)
  • Academic Member, Chinese Studies Center, The University of Sydney
  • Member, Biopolitics of Science Research Network, The University of Sydney
  • Member, Mosaic Network, The University of Sydney
  • Member, Human Animal Research Network (HARN)
  • Member, World Public Health Nutrition Association
  • Member on the Charles Perkins CentreEarly and Mid-Career Research Network Committee
  • Researcher, Sydney Environment Institute
  • Member,Society for Social Studies of Science
  • Co-convener, Australian Food, Society, and Culture Network (AFSCN)
  • Fellow, Australian Anthropological Society
  • Member, Asian Studies Association of Australia
  • Member, Native American and Indigenous Studies Association
  • Academic Member, Sydney Southeast Asia Center
  • Member, Sydney Food and Nutrition Network
  • Member, Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre
  • Member, Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Academy (ANHA)
  • Member, AgriFood Research Network (AFRN)
  • Member, Food Studies Research Network (FSRN)

Awards and honours

2019: Vice-Chancellor’s Commendation for PhD Thesis, Macquarie University

2018: Engaged Anthropology Grant, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

2015 – 2018: Endeavour International Postgraduate Scholarship (PhD), Australian Ministry of Education and Training

2015 – 2018: Tuition Gap International Research Excellence Scholarship, Macquarie University

2015 – 2016: Dissertation Fieldwork Grant (Ref: 9196), Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

2014: International Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship, Macquarie University (declined)

2009: College Prize for First in the Final Honour School Examinations, St Anne’s College, University of Oxford

2007: College Scholarship, St Anne’s College, University of Oxford (renewed in 2008 and 2009)

2007: Dudbridge Prize 2007 for Outstanding Performance in Moderations, University of Oxford

2007: College Prize for a Distinction in the First Public Exam, St Anne’s College, University of Oxford

2006: College Exhibition for a Distinction in Exams, St Anne’s College, University of Oxford

2006: College Half Prize for a Distinction in the Qualifying Exam, St Anne’s College, University of Oxford

In the media

2019. ‘Talking Indonesia: Palm Oil and Indigenous People.’ Talking Indonesia podcast. University of Melbourne. 11 July.

2019. ‘Culture, Food, and Environment: Indigenous Experiences of Hunger in West Papua.’ Opinion piece. Sydney Environment Institute. 12 June.http://sydney.edu.au/environment-institute/blog/culture-food-environment-indigenous-experiences-hunger-west-papua/

2019. ‘SEI News: Q+A with Postdoc Research Associate Sophie Chao.’ Sydney Environment Institute Blog. The University of Sydney.

2019.How Land Grabbers Weaponize Indigenous Ritual Against Papuans: An Interview with Anthropologist Sophie Chao.Mongabay/ The Gecko Project.28 March

2016.Malaysia: The Murut Struggle against Palm Oil, for Land and Life.The Ecologist. 12 December.

2014.Local Communities Key to Saving Forests.The Jakarta Post.7 April.

2014.Forest Peoples’ Landmark Appeal to Curb Global Deforestation.Our World 2.0. 21 March.

2014.Les Peuples des Forêts Réclament leurs Droits. Interview withLa Voix de l’Amérique. 22 March.

2013.‘Securing Human Rights through Private Sector Standards? A Comparative Review.’Our World 2.0. 8 February.

2012.'Seeing the People for the Trees.’Our World 2.0. 8 June.

2012. ‘1.3 Billion People Depend on Forests to Survive.’ Interview withNew Scientist, Issue 2865. 26 May.

2012. ‘Har Investert Milliarder i Omstridt Selskap.’Interview with theNorwegian Broadcasting Corporation. 3 April.

2012.‘Bali Declaration Calls for Palm Oil Justice.’Our World 2.0. 9 March.

Internal Grants

2019 - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Research Support Scheme (FRSS),“Eating or Being Eaten: The Politics of Hunger among Marind, West Papua”, $5,000

Selected publications

Download citations: PDF RTF Endnote

Edited Books

  • Chao, S., Colchester, M. (2013). Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads. TUK INDONESIA: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.
  • Colchester, M., Chao, S. (2011). Divers Paths to Justice: Legal Pluralism and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Southeast Asia. Chiang Mai: Forest Peoples Programme and Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact.
  • Colchester, M., Chao, S. (2011). Oil Palm Expansion in South East Asia: Trends and implications for local communities and indigenous peoples. Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.

Book Chapters

  • Chao, S. (2013). Brief #1 of 8: Regional Overview. In Sophie Chao (Eds.), Agribusiness large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Human Rights in Southeast Asia: Updates from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and Burma, (pp. 1-18). Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme.
  • Chao, S. (2013). Brief #7 of 8: Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. In Sophie Chao (Eds.), Agribusiness large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Human Rights in Southeast Asia: Updates from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and Burma, (pp. 118-137). Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme.
  • Chao, S. (2013). Brief #8 of 8: Union in Burma. In Sophie Chao (Eds.), Agribusiness large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Human Rights in Southeast Asia: Updates from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and Burma, (pp. 138-155). Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme.
  • Chao, S., Colchester, M., Kleden, E., Jiwan, N., Andiko, A., Hermawansyah, H., Cinditiara, I. (2013). PT Agrowiratama and the Melayu and Dayak peoples of Sambas, West Kalimantan. In Marcus Colchester and Sophie Chao (Eds.), Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads, (pp. 28-53). TUK INDONESIA: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.
  • Chao, S., Raja, A., Chalifah, F., Kusumohartono, T. (2013). PT Mustika Sembuluh and the Dayak Temuan of Central Kalimantan. In Marcus Colchester and Sophie Chao (Eds.), Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads, (pp. 69-100). TUK INDONESIA: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.
  • Chao, S., Colchester, M., Kleden, E., Jiwan, N., Andiko, A., Hermawansyah, H. (2013). PT REA Kaltim Plantations and the Dayak and Kutai peoples of Kutai Kartanegara and Tabang, East Kalimantan. In Marcus Colchester and Sophie Chao (Eds.), Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads, (pp. 28-53). TUK INDONESIA: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.
  • Chao, S. (2013). Update on IFC CAO mediation in PT Asiatic Persada (Jambi, Indonesia). In Marcus Colchester and Sophie Chao (Eds.), Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads, (pp. 198-200). TUK INDONESIA: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.

Journals

  • Chao, S. (2019). Palma Africana by Michael Taussig. American Anthropologist, July (2019). [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2018). In the Shadow of the Palm: Dispersed Ontologies among Marind, West Papua. Cultural Anthropology, 33(4), 621-649. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2018). Seed Care in the Palm Oil Sector. Environmental Humanities, 10(2), 421-446. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2018). The Plastic Cassowary: Problematic 'Pets' in West Papua. Ethnos, Article in press, 1-21. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2017). "There Are No Straight Lines in Nature": Making Living Maps in West Papua. Anthropology Now, 9(1), 16-33. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2016). Book review: Elusive Caimans and the Anthropologist as Devil. Anthropology Now, 8(1), 132-138. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2016). Book Review: From 'Stone Age' to 'Real-Time': Exploring Papuan Temporalities, Mobilities and Religiosities. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 27(3), 410-411. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2016). In Deforestation's Wake, Wild Animals Turn Troublesome. SAPIENS.

Conferences

  • Chao, S. (2014). Yangon Conference on Human Rights and Agribusiness: Proceedings. Yangon Conference on Human Rights and Agribusiness in Southeast Asia, Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme.
  • Chao, S. (2012). Human Rights and Agribusiness - Plural Legal Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Institutional Strengthening and Legal Reform. Human Rights and Agribusiness - Plural Legal Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Institutional Strengthening and Legal Reform, Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.

Magazine / Newspaper Articles

  • Chao, S. (2019). The Truth About "Sustainable" Palm Oil. Sapiens.

Report

  • Chao, S., Anderson, P., Colchester, M. (2014). Assault on the Commons: Deforestation and Denial of Rights in Indonesia.
  • Chao, S. (2013). A Sweetness like unto Death: Voices of the Indigenous Malind of Merauke, Papua.
  • Chao, S. (2013). Agribusiness Large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Human Rights in Southeast Asia: Updates from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Burma.
  • Chao, S. (2012). Forest Peoples: Numbers across the World.
  • Chao, S. (2012). Free, Prior and Informed Consent and the RSPO; Are the companies keeping their promises?.
  • Chao, S., Colchester, M. (2012). Human Rights and Agribusiness: Plural Legal Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Institutional Strengthening and Legal Reform.
  • Chao, S., Colchester, M., Jiwan, N. (2012). Securing Rights through Commodity Roundtables? A Comparative Review.
  • Chao, S. (2011). Human rights abuses and land conflicts in the PT Asiatic Persada concession in Jambi: Report of an independent investigation into land disputes and forced evictions in a palm oil estate.

Other

  • Chao, S. (2019), Engaged Anthropology Grant. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2019), Is Hunger Culture-Bound?. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2019), Teaching Ontologies and Activism with Sophie Chao.
  • Colchester, M., Anderson, P., Chao, S. (2017), Respecting communities rights to their lands and to Free, Priorand Informed Consent through the HCS Approach.
  • Chao, S. (2016), Plantworlds in West Papua.
  • Colchester, M., Chao, S., Anderson, P., Jonas, H. (2015), Free, Prior and Informed Consent Guide for RSPO Members.
  • Colchester, M., Chao, S. (2014), Respecting free, prior and informed consent: Practical guidance for governments, companies, NGOs, indigenous peoples and local communities in relation to land acquisition.
  • Colchester, M., Chao, S. (2013), Monitoring Protocol for High Conservation Values 5 and 6 with Guidelines on Best Practices in Community Engagement.
  • Chao, S. (2013), The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and complaint resolution: Guidance on submitting a complaint for civil society organisations and local communities.

2019

  • Chao, S. (2019), Engaged Anthropology Grant. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2019), Is Hunger Culture-Bound?. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2019). Palma Africana by Michael Taussig. American Anthropologist, July (2019). [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2019), Teaching Ontologies and Activism with Sophie Chao.
  • Chao, S. (2019). The Truth About "Sustainable" Palm Oil. Sapiens.

2018

  • Chao, S. (2018). In the Shadow of the Palm: Dispersed Ontologies among Marind, West Papua. Cultural Anthropology, 33(4), 621-649. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2018). Seed Care in the Palm Oil Sector. Environmental Humanities, 10(2), 421-446. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2018). The Plastic Cassowary: Problematic 'Pets' in West Papua. Ethnos, Article in press, 1-21. [More Information]

2017

  • Chao, S. (2017). "There Are No Straight Lines in Nature": Making Living Maps in West Papua. Anthropology Now, 9(1), 16-33. [More Information]
  • Colchester, M., Anderson, P., Chao, S. (2017), Respecting communities rights to their lands and to Free, Priorand Informed Consent through the HCS Approach.

2016

  • Chao, S. (2016). Book review: Elusive Caimans and the Anthropologist as Devil. Anthropology Now, 8(1), 132-138. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2016). Book Review: From 'Stone Age' to 'Real-Time': Exploring Papuan Temporalities, Mobilities and Religiosities. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 27(3), 410-411. [More Information]
  • Chao, S. (2016). In Deforestation's Wake, Wild Animals Turn Troublesome. SAPIENS.
  • Chao, S. (2016), Plantworlds in West Papua.

2015

  • Colchester, M., Chao, S., Anderson, P., Jonas, H. (2015), Free, Prior and Informed Consent Guide for RSPO Members.

2014

  • Chao, S., Anderson, P., Colchester, M. (2014). Assault on the Commons: Deforestation and Denial of Rights in Indonesia.
  • Colchester, M., Chao, S. (2014), Respecting free, prior and informed consent: Practical guidance for governments, companies, NGOs, indigenous peoples and local communities in relation to land acquisition.
  • Chao, S. (2014). Yangon Conference on Human Rights and Agribusiness: Proceedings. Yangon Conference on Human Rights and Agribusiness in Southeast Asia, Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme.

2013

  • Chao, S. (2013). A Sweetness like unto Death: Voices of the Indigenous Malind of Merauke, Papua.
  • Chao, S. (2013). Agribusiness Large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Human Rights in Southeast Asia: Updates from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Burma.
  • Chao, S. (2013). Brief #1 of 8: Regional Overview. In Sophie Chao (Eds.), Agribusiness large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Human Rights in Southeast Asia: Updates from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and Burma, (pp. 1-18). Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme.
  • Chao, S. (2013). Brief #7 of 8: Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. In Sophie Chao (Eds.), Agribusiness large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Human Rights in Southeast Asia: Updates from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and Burma, (pp. 118-137). Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme.
  • Chao, S. (2013). Brief #8 of 8: Union in Burma. In Sophie Chao (Eds.), Agribusiness large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Human Rights in Southeast Asia: Updates from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and Burma, (pp. 138-155). Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme.
  • Chao, S., Colchester, M. (2013). Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads. TUK INDONESIA: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.
  • Colchester, M., Chao, S. (2013), Monitoring Protocol for High Conservation Values 5 and 6 with Guidelines on Best Practices in Community Engagement.
  • Chao, S., Colchester, M., Kleden, E., Jiwan, N., Andiko, A., Hermawansyah, H., Cinditiara, I. (2013). PT Agrowiratama and the Melayu and Dayak peoples of Sambas, West Kalimantan. In Marcus Colchester and Sophie Chao (Eds.), Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads, (pp. 28-53). TUK INDONESIA: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.
  • Chao, S., Raja, A., Chalifah, F., Kusumohartono, T. (2013). PT Mustika Sembuluh and the Dayak Temuan of Central Kalimantan. In Marcus Colchester and Sophie Chao (Eds.), Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads, (pp. 69-100). TUK INDONESIA: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.
  • Chao, S., Colchester, M., Kleden, E., Jiwan, N., Andiko, A., Hermawansyah, H. (2013). PT REA Kaltim Plantations and the Dayak and Kutai peoples of Kutai Kartanegara and Tabang, East Kalimantan. In Marcus Colchester and Sophie Chao (Eds.), Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads, (pp. 28-53). TUK INDONESIA: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.
  • Chao, S. (2013), The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and complaint resolution: Guidance on submitting a complaint for civil society organisations and local communities.
  • Chao, S. (2013). Update on IFC CAO mediation in PT Asiatic Persada (Jambi, Indonesia). In Marcus Colchester and Sophie Chao (Eds.), Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads, (pp. 198-200). TUK INDONESIA: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.

2012

  • Chao, S. (2012). Forest Peoples: Numbers across the World.
  • Chao, S. (2012). Free, Prior and Informed Consent and the RSPO; Are the companies keeping their promises?.
  • Chao, S. (2012). Human Rights and Agribusiness - Plural Legal Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Institutional Strengthening and Legal Reform. Human Rights and Agribusiness - Plural Legal Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Institutional Strengthening and Legal Reform, Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.
  • Chao, S., Colchester, M. (2012). Human Rights and Agribusiness: Plural Legal Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Institutional Strengthening and Legal Reform.
  • Chao, S., Colchester, M., Jiwan, N. (2012). Securing Rights through Commodity Roundtables? A Comparative Review.

2011

  • Colchester, M., Chao, S. (2011). Divers Paths to Justice: Legal Pluralism and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Southeast Asia. Chiang Mai: Forest Peoples Programme and Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact.
  • Chao, S. (2011). Human rights abuses and land conflicts in the PT Asiatic Persada concession in Jambi: Report of an independent investigation into land disputes and forced evictions in a palm oil estate.
  • Colchester, M., Chao, S. (2011). Oil Palm Expansion in South East Asia: Trends and implications for local communities and indigenous peoples. Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch.

For support on your academic profile contact .