Stuart Kirsch is professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan. His research addresses questions about globalization and development, especially concerns about the environment and sustainability. He has worked in the Pacific and the Amazon on indigenous rights, including long-term research and advocacy with the people living downstream from the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea and political refugees from West Papua, Indonesia. His scholarly interests include climate change, the corporation, design ethnography, engaged anthropology, political ecology, property, and social movements. Much of his work has been undertaken in collaboration with interlocutors located beyond the academy, including indigenous activists, lawyers, and most recently, engineers. He is currently working on a five-year research project Transitions: Pathways to a Post-Carbon Future supported by the NOMIS Foundation in Switzerland.

Kirsch is the author of Reverse Anthropology: Indigenous Analysis of Social and Environmental Relations in New Guinea (Stanford University Press, 2006), which examines how the Yonggom people draw on their cultural resources to interpret and respond to contemporary challenges, including pollution from the mine, participation in the global economy, and being divided between two states. The book asks whether culture continues to matter in the face of such overwhelming power disparities.

His next book, Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and Their Critics (University of California Press, 2014), examines corporate responses to critique by comparing mining conflicts in Melanesia. It analyzes the strategies corporations use to counter opposition from NGOs and indigenous groups. The book argues that attention to the relationship between corporations and their critics can help to overcome the politics of resignation, in which the status quo is seen as natural or inevitable.

Professor Kirsch has consulted widely on indigenous land rights and environmental conflicts, including compensation for damage to persons and property caused by nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands, conservation and development in Papua New Guinea, and mining and property rights in the Solomon Islands. He has collaborated with Amerindian communities in Suriname and Guyana on indigenous land rights and the impacts of bauxite and gold mining, contributing to cases at the Inter-American Commission on and Court of Human Rights. He also co-authored a report on corporate social responsibility and violence in El Salvador. These and related projects are the focus of his most recent book, Engaged Anthropology: Politics Beyond the Text (University of California Press, 2018), which encourages anthropologists to help solve the problems facing the world.

Kirsch earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991 and taught at Mount Holyoke College before coming to the University of Michigan in 1995. He has held visiting appointments at the University of Cambridge, Goldsmiths (University of London), Notre Dame, and Yale, was a guest professor at the Arctic University in Tromsø and the University of Bern, and will be a visiting professor at EHESS in Paris in May, 2023. He has participated in collaborative research projects on cultural property in Melanesia and resource conflicts in the Andes. His work has been supported by fellowships and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Economic and Social Research Council, Fulbright-Hays, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, a Michigan Humanities Award, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Program in Agrarian Studies, the Royal Anthropological Institute fellowship for Urgent Anthropology, the Social Science Research Council, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. He was awarded the 2023 Berlin Prize and will be in residence at the American Academy of Berlin in the fall. At the University of Michigan, he co-convenes the ethnography lab for postfieldwork students writing their dissertations and offers seminars on the Anthropocene, environmental anthropology, and the anthropology of property. His doctoral students have conducted research from Sierra Leone to Ancient Rome, and from Kathmandu to Pasco, Peru, and Quintana Roo.

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