Capitalism, colonialism and multispecies justice

How has capitalism and colonialism rendered multispecies injustice business as usual? A panel of experts unpack this issue and consider what alternative structures could support conditions for justice.

To understand the production of multispecies injustices requires widening the frame beyond specific acts of violence, exploitation and marginalisation. More pointedly, to counter such injustices and create alternatives, demands an appreciation of how capitalism and colonialism have put in place the meanings, forms of relationship, and institutional arrangements that render multispecies injustice business as usual.

This event was held online on Tuesday, 6 June 2023.

To launch the Special Issue of the journal Cultural Politics on Multispecies Justice, the editors and four contributing authors explored the capitalist and colonial roots of injustices that occur at the sites where they work – in the worlds of First Nations Peoples, in Oceans, in the sites of industrialised animal slaughter, and even in contemporary artworks seeking to resist the erasure of more-than-human lives. They speculated on how anti- or post-capitalist and anti- or post-colonial forms of life, meanings, and institutional arrangements might create the conditions for justice for all earth beings.

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Danielle Celermajer (Chair), sociologist

Danielle Celermajer is the Sydney Environment Institute’s Deputy Director – Academic and lead of SEI’s Environmental imaginaries and storytelling research theme. Dany is the project lead of the Grounded Imaginaries project and also leads SEI’s research cluster Concepts and practices and multispecies justice and is a Professor of Sociology and Social Policy in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. After living through the 2019/2020 NSW bushfires, Dany wrote of her experience of the “killing of everything”, which she calls “omnicide” and published her book Summertime: Reflections on a Vanishing Future.

Sophie Chao (Chair), anthropologist

Sophie Chao is Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow and Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Sydney, and co-lead of the Biocultural Diversities research theme at the Sydney Environment Institute. Her research investigates the intersections of Indigeneity, ecology, capitalism, health, and justice in the Pacific. Sophie is author of In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua (Duke University Press, 2022) and co-editor of The Promise of Multispecies Justice (Duke University Press, 2022).

Sria Chatterjee, art historian and environmental humanities scholar

Sria Chatterjee is an art historian and environmental humanities scholar. She is the Head of Research and Learning at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art in London. She specialises in the political ecologies of art and design from the colonial to the contemporary and leads the multi-year research project, Climate & Colonialism at the Paul Mellon Centre. Sria received her PhD from the Art & Archaeology department at Princeton University in 2019 and has held fellowships and research positions at the Max-Planck Kunsthistorisches Institute and the Swiss National Science Foundation. She has published numerous chapters, essays and articles in British Art Studies, Museums History Journal, Contemporary Political Theory, and other outlets including Noema Magazine. Her first book, currently in progress, provides a close look at the deep links between nationalism, agriculture, and the natural environment through the history of art, design, and media.

Sue Reid, creative researcher and cultural theorist

Susan Reid is a cultural researcher, cultural theorist, artist, writer and lawyer, with interests that include multibeing ontologies and justice. She is a member of the Sydney Environment Institute and a collaborating researcher with the University of Sydney’s ‘Extracting the Ocean’ project. Current research explores ocean ontology and epistemology, the ecological force of law, and frameworks for multibeing justice. Susan is of mixed Celtic/European settler heritage, living and working nomadically on unceded Gadigal and Yugambeh lands.

Christine Winter, justice theorist

Christine Winter (Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairoa, Ngati Pakeha) is a Senior Lecturer at the Politics Programme at the University of Otago/Te Whare Wānanga o te Ōtākou in Aotearoa New Zealand and a Research Associate at the Sydney Environment Institute. Her research focuses on the ways in which academic political theory, and particularly theories of justice, continue to perpetuate injustice for some people (and more specifically for Māori) and the environment. Her most recent research centres on ensuring the emerging field of a political theory of multispecies justice has decolonial (and anticolonial) foundations.

Hayley Singer, creative writer

Hayley Singer is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. Her research and writing practice moves across the fields of creative non-fiction, critical ecological feminisms, animal studies and queer embodiments. Hayley’s first book, Abandon Every Hope: Essays for the dead, was published by Upswell in 2023.  With support from a Creative Victoria grant, she is writing her second collection of essays, which tracks the disturbances and currents left in the body of the world – and the world of a body – after an event.


Header image: Birdsong by Janet Laurence.

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