Dr. Chao completed her award-winning thesis under the supervision of Dr. Jaap Timmer (Macquarie University), Dr. Eve Vincent (Macquarie University), and Dr. Eben Kirksey (Deakin University).
The 2019 AAS PhD Thesis Prize attracted a strong field of contenders. A panel of three independent anthropologists judged Dr. Chao’s thesis as the best among them in terms of theoretical sophistication, ethnographic depth, quality of writing and originality.
“I am delighted to receive the AAS PhD Thesis Prize 2019 and thank in particular the Marind communities of West Papua among whom I did my research, and without whose generosity and patience this project would never have been possible," said Dr Chao.
"I hope my thesis does justice to their richly complex lives, stories, and worlds."
Dr. Chao’s thesis examines how deforestation and oil palm expansion reconfigures the multispecies lifeworld of indigenous Marind communities in the Indonesian-controlled region of West Papua.
It situates these transformations within ongoing processes of extractive colonization and racial discrimination in West Papua – a region whose native inhabitants continue to be denied the right to political and cultural self-determination. Rooted in indigenous theory and practice, the thesis offers a theoretically nuanced and ethnographically rich analysis of the lives, struggles, and resilience of West Papuan communities in the face of entrenched regimes of color and capital.