Carnegie Mellon University

Noah Theriault

Noah Theriault

Assistant Professor

  • Baker Hall 240-A
  • 412-268-9301


As a sociocultural anthropologist and political ecologist, I am interested in how “global” projects and processes collide with “local” lives and practices. More specifically, my research asks how different cosmologies, world-making practices, and visions of justice encounter and transform one another in the context of environmental interventions. What happens, for example, when conservation projects bring contrasting conceptions of personhood into contention with one another and what consequences does this have for local people and their environments? What does “justice” mean to members of socially and ecologically marginalized communities and how do their visions compare with those of transnational environmental-justice activists?

So far my work has focused on the Philippines and, in particular, on Palawan Island, where I have conducted more than two years of ethnographic research over the past decade. This work highlights the experiences of Indigenous Palawan communities as they contend with paradoxical state and NGO interventions intended to recognize their territorial claims while at the same time incorporating them into conservation enclosures. I argue that even these liberal forms of regulation extend long-standing efforts to colonize Indigenous societies and expropriate their lands. Like their counterparts around the world, then, Palawan face powerful forces of assimilation and dispossession. Yet, I argue, it would be a mistake to presume that they are passive in the face of these challenges or that their assimilation is inevitable. Despite stark imbalances of power, Palawan world-making practices endure and play an important role in shaping their encounters with neo/colonial actors and institutions. My work aims to honor their enduring presence by disrupting narratives that presume their erasure.

Even as I remain committed to Palawan, new collaborations are inspiring me to ask new questions. In 2016, I became a founding member of the Creatures Collective, a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, artists, and activists “who are working together and as part of broader collectives, families and relations to contest dominant narratives of the global extinction crisis.” In addition, I am currently developing a Participatory Action Research project exploring dis/connections between Manila’s urban slum communities and transnational Climate Justice activism.

Behind all these efforts is a deeply held commitment to co-producing knowledge that is relevant to the communities who host me; engaging with a diverse range of scholars, practitioners, and activists; and contributing to broader efforts on behalf of social, environmental, and ecological justice. At CMU, I am excited to offer courses and mentor student research on Global Political Ecology, Environmental Justice, Southeast Asia, Indigenous Rights, Social Movements, and related topics.

Additional information on my research, teaching, and public engagement is available on my personal website.


Ph.D.: University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2013


  • “Unraveling the Strings Attached: Philippine Indigeneity in Law and Practice.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies (forthcoming).
  • “A Forest of Dreams: Ontological Multiplicity and the Fantasies of Environmental Government in the Philippines.” Political Geography 58 (2017): 114-127.
  • “Environmental Politics and the Burden of Authenticity.” Palawan and Its Global Connections, edited by James Eder and Oscar Evangelista. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press (2014): 346-370.
  • “The Micropolitics of Indigenous Environmental Movements in the Philippines.” Development & Change 42.6 (2011): 1417-1440.

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Southeast Asia

Department Member Since: 2017