along the ok tedi

•22 May 2010 • Leave a Comment

Stuart Kirsch is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan. He has carried out long-term ethnographic research with the Yonggom people who live on both sides of the border between Papua New Guinea and West Papua (Indonesia). He has also collaborated with the Yonggom and their neighbors in their long-running political campaign and legal efforts to limit the environmental impact of the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine. His research interests include corporations, indigenous movements, ‘lost tribes’, mining, political ecology, political violence, property, and ritual and myth.

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 draw on their own cultural resources to interpret and respond to environmental degradation caused by the mine, their incorporation into the state, and their participation in new forms of exchange.

Kirsch’s forthcoming book examines corporate responses to critique. Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and their Critics compares mining conflicts in Melanesia and other parts of the world. The book is being published by the University of California Press and is scheduled for release in June, 2014.

Professor Kirsch has consulted widely on indigenous rights and environmental issues, including compensation for damages caused by nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands, conservation and development in the Lakekamu River Basin of Papua New Guinea, and mining and property rights in the Solomon Islands. From 2000-2003, Kirsch participated in a collaborative research project on cultural property rights at the University of Cambridge. He subsequently joined a research project at the University of Manchester on extractive conflicts in the Latin America. Kirsch also collaborates with Amerindian communities in Suriname on the impact of bauxite mining and as an expert witness for a case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on indigenous land rights. These projects are the subject of Kirsch’s next book, Engaged Anthropology Backstage: Politics and Reflexivity beyond the Text, which he will begin writing during his forthcoming sabbatical in Winter 2014.

Professor Kirsch received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991 and taught for four years at Mount Holyoke College before coming to the University of Michigan in 1995. He has received research funding and support for writing from the Agrarian Studies program at Yale University, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Economic and Social Research Council in the U.K., Fulbright-Hays, a Michigan Humanities Award, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, a Royal Anthropological Institute fellowship for “Urgent Anthropology,” the Social Science Research Council, and a Richard Carley Hunt fellowship from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Inc. He has also held visiting appointments at the University of Cambridge and Goldsmiths College in London. At the University of Michigan, he teaches undergraduate courses and graduate seminars on anthropology and history, engaged anthropology, environmental anthropology, the anthropology of property, indigenous political movements, and the Pacific.


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