Carnegie Mellon University

Noah Theriault

Noah Theriault

Assistant Professor

  • Baker Hall 240-A
  • 412-268-9301


As a sociocultural anthropologist and political ecologist, I study how different societies understand and interact with one another and with their environments. This means approaching societies as ‘more-than-human’ affairs and ecosystems as power-laden, sociopolitical networks. It also means seeing environmental politics not just as struggles over resources, but as encounters among different epistemologies, cosmologies, and ontologies. I employ both ethnographic and historical methods to trace how these encounters unfold at the local level, how they interact with global forces, and how they reverberate outward. My work asks, for example: whose cosmologies and interests are embedded in transnational conservation efforts and how do they affect the communities whose resources are targeted for conservation? How, in turn, do local actors—including other-than-human beings—intervene in and shape the practice of conservation?

My empirical research focuses primarily on the Philippines, where I have conducted nearly three years of fieldwork over the past twelve years. A long-term project examines the micropolitics of indigeneity and environmental regulation on Palawan Island, a UNESCO “Biosphere Reserve” undergoing rapid settler colonization, agricultural intensification, bureaucratization, and marketization. My writing strives to highlight the creativity and endurance of Palawan’s Indigenous communities as they navigate and intervene in these powerful forces of dispossession and ecological change. In 2016, I connected this work with the Creatures Collective, an international collaboration of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, artists, and activists, who have come together in an effort to contest the colonial amnesia of contemporary ‘mass extinction’ narratives and to support the resurgence of more-than-human collectives in response thereto. More recently, I have initiated a new study of how Manila’s ‘traffic crisis’ interacts with social inequality, technocratic authority, and political subjectivity. By connecting urban political ecology, environmental history, and the anthropology of infrastructure, this project aims to offer ethnographic insights into a problem that permeates all aspects of life in this fast-growing mega-city.

Motivating all of these engagements 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 offer courses and mentor student research on Political Ecology, Environmental Justice, Climate Change and Climate Justice, Southeast Asia, Indigenous Rights, Social Movements, Disasters, and related topics.

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


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


  • with Audra Mitchell. “Extinction.” In Anthropocene Unseen: A Lexicon, edited by C. Howe and A. Pandian. Goleta, CA: Punctum (2018).
  • “Unraveling the Strings Attached: Philippine Indigeneity in Law and Practice.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 50.1 (in press, 2019).
  • with Audra Mitchell. “Extinction.” In Anthropocene Unseen: A Lexicon, edited by C. Howe and A. Pandian. Goleta, CA: Punctum (2018).
  • A Forest of Dreams: Ontological Multiplicity and the Fantasies of Environmental Government in the Philippines.” Political Geography 58 (2017): 114-127.
  • with Zev Trachtenberg, Antonio J. Castro, Kiza Gates, Asa Randall, Ingo Schlupp, and Lynn Soregan. “(Inter)facing the Anthropocene: Representing an Interdisciplinary Interaction. Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities 5.1 (2017): 18-38.
  • 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
  • Modern Southeast Asia: Colonialism, Capitalism, and Cultural Exchange
  • How (Not) to Change the World
  • Climate Change and Climate Justice
  • Un-Natural Disasters: Societies and Environmental Hazards in Global Perspective
  • Hostile Environments: The Politics of Pollution in Global Perspective
  • Introduction to Global Studies

Department Member Since: 2017