9 June Seminar: Seeing Indigenous Land Struggles in COVID-19

Please register to attend here


Please join us seminar #7 in the COVID-19 seminar series, co-hosted by the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship & Globalisation (ADI) and the Science and Society Network (SSN).


Seeing Indigenous Land Struggles in COVID-19


Popular and academic commentary on the multispecies assemblage of COVID-19 has focused extensively on its nebulous animal origins. Bats, civets, snakes, pangolins, and birds have all found themselves implicated as possible hosts for the novel virus. A multispecies exploration of COVID-19 appropriately highlights the profitable and violent commodity chains that connect mass consumption of wild animals to global ‘biodiversity hotspots.’ Yet, perversely, this move has also worked to erase reference to the peoples who actually coexist with these lifeforms. In this talk, we examine what is rendered invisible when ‘exotic’ animal origins are fetishized. Throughout Southeast Asia, the ancestral territories of indigenous peoples are the ultimate source of wildlife destined for consumption throughout the region. Drawing on examples from the Philippines and Malaysia, we explore how indigenous struggles for land and livelihood are central, not marginal, to understanding the emergence of a zoonotic pathogen like SARS-CoV-2.

About the speakers:

Will Smith is an Associate Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute at Deakin University. He is an anthropologist and human geographer whose research critically explores environmental governance, indigenous livelihoods and climate change in the Philippines. He is the author of Mountains of Blame: Climate and Culpability in the Philippine Uplands (University of Washington Press, 2020).

Noah Theriault, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Carnegie Mellon University, studies how global-scale forces shape the lives of rural and urban communities in the Philippines, with particular attention to the everyday practices through which those forces are enacted, contested, and potentially transformed. This includes a long-term study of indigeneity and biodiversity conservation in Palawan and more recently a political ecology of infrastructure in Manila.

As a former conservation biologist, June Rubis, Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Sydney, has about twelve years experience with wildlife conservation fieldwork in both Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo. She also has work experience on Indigenous land rights issues, working alongside with local activists in Malaysian Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah), on campaigns to resist mega-dam development in Borneo. She also studies decolonial Indigenous approaches to biodiversity conservation in Sarawak. Much of her approach to her work follows along the teachings of her late Bidayuh father. She holds both an MSc in Environmental Change and Management and a DPhil (PhD) in Geography & Environment, from the University of Oxford.

Watch the seminar:

Seminar will be available to stream on YouTube live. Access using the live link: https://youtu.be/AD29NDsvwkc

Date/time: Tuesday 9th June, 10am – 11:30am (Australian Eastern Standard Time, GMT+10)

Q&A with the speaker to follow. To send questions/participate in the chat, you’ll need to sign-in using a YouTube account.

The seminar will be recorded and available to watch on the SSN YouTube channel after the Livestream.

If you have any questions, please send to ssn-info@deakin.edu.au