I am an environmental anthropologist whose research focuses on the relationship between environmental change, economic development, and how marginalized communities build their livelihoods. Most of my research has taken place in Peru, particularly the southern Andes and the cities of Arequipa and Lima. I've also worked in the Maldives and the US. Recent topics of particular interest to me include: local understandings of what it means to be wealthy; the impacts of mineral extraction; cultural branding; and outsiders trying to improve things for people that may or may not want them there. My scholarship is a long-term effort to understand what economic growth actually looks like for people in their daily lives, how it feels, and what it means as they face the new ravages of climate change. I work to question the power dynamics at play in uses of concepts like "resilience," "adaptation," and "sustainability."
My current book project, Acts of Growth: Development and the Politics of Abundance in Peru (under contract with Stanford University Press), is an ethnography of growth in the southern Peruvian Andes against the backdrop of droughts and diminished agricultural prospects. There, I suggest that development work has shifted from an effort to alleviate poverty to a means of managing a wealthy nation's resource abundance. I inspect how different political actors mobilize idealized images of indigenous livelihoods, traditions, and expertise to expand Peru's astronomical growth in ways that render small-scale identity-based entrepreneurship and large-scale mining complementary forms of development.
A second major research project for which I have begun fieldwork uses ethnography to understand the role that climate change plays in everyday life in Peru, Latin America, and several other sites seeing significant climate impacts. Across a series of articles and a future book project, I inspect the tensions that emerge as national leaders and marginalized communities consider the tantalizing promises of emissions-intensive expansion and, simultaneously, the need to address climate change. My work also occasionally draws on comparative field research on climate change I have conducted in the Maldives.
My newest research project is the F&M Environmental Migration Lab. Involving work in the community of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, it engages students in digitally mapping migration stories and using narrative and GIS data to discern how people navigate ecologically and politically hostile environments.
You can learn more about my research and see images from my fieldwork on my website. My CV is attached here:
My book, Acts of Growth: Development and the Politics of Abundance in Peru, is now under contract with Stanford University Press. The book will be listed with Stanford's anthropology and Latin American studies collections.
In 2019, I joined Local Indicators of Climate Change Impacts, a global collaboration based out of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona's Institute for Environmental Science and Technology and funded by the European Research Council. This is a project engaged in tracking how indigenous and local communities observe, understand, and respond to climate change in their specific contexts. I am one of 40 researchers compiling non-Western scientific knowledge from a broad array of the world's most climate-affected regions. (The project is currently on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.)
2020 Hirsch, Eric. “Hidden Treasures: Marca Perú (PeruTM) and the Recoding of Neoliberal Sustainability in the Peruvian Andes.” Special Issue: "Arts of Exposure." Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies 15(3): 245-269.
2020 Hirsch, Eric, Chelsey Kivland, and Yana Stainova (equal co-authorship). “Self Exposures: The Political Arts of Ethnoracial Identification in Latin America and the
Caribbean.” Introduction to “Arts of Exposure: The Performative Politics of Ethnoracial Self-Representation in Latin America and the Caribbean,” edited by Eric Hirsch, Chelsey Kivland, and Yana Stainova (equal co-editorship). Special Issue of Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies 15(3): 201-218.
2020 Hirsch, Eric. “Sustainable Development.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology, edited by Mark Aldenderfer. New York: Oxford University Press.
2020 Hirsch, Eric. “Ethnicity as Potential: Abundance, Competition, and the Limits of Development in Andean Peru’s Colca Valley.” Chapter in Ethnicity, Commodity, In/Corporation, edited by George Paul Meiu, Jean Comaroff, and John L. Comaroff. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 94-119.
2020 Vaccaro, Ismael, Eric Hirsch, and Irene Sabaté. The Emergence of the Global Debt Society: Governmentality and Profit Extraction through Fabricated Abundance and Imposed Scarcity in Peru and Spain. Focaal. Vol. 87. 46-60.
2019 Hirsch, Eric and Kyle Jones. Hip Hop and Guinea Pigs: Contextualizing the Urban Andes. Chapter in The Andean World, edited by Linda Seligmann and Kathleen Fine-Dare. London: Routledge. (Series: Routledge Worlds)
2019. Devore, Jonathan, Eric Hirsch, and Susan Paulson. Conserving Human and Other Nature: A Curious Case of Convivial Conservation from Brazil. Anthropologie et Sociétés Vol. 43, No. 3: 31-58.
2018 Hirsch, Eric. Remapping the Vertical Archipelago: Mobility, Migration, and the Everyday Labor of Andean Development. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology Vol. 23, No. 1. 189-208.
2017 Hirsch, Eric. Investment’s Rituals: “Grassroots” Extractivism and the Making of an Indigenous Gold Mine in the Peruvian Andes. (Special Issue: Rendering Land Investable). Geoforum Vol. 82. 259-267.
2017 Hirsch, Eric. The Unit of Resilience: Degrowth and the Politics of Development in Peru and the Maldives. Journal of Political Ecology. (Special Issue: Culture, Power, Degrowth). Vol. 24. 462-475
2016 Hirsch, Eric. Mediating Indigeneity: Public Space and the Making of Political Identity in Andean Peru. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. Vol. 39, No 1. 95-109.
2015 Hirsch, Eric. “It won’t be any good to have democracy if we don’t have a country”: Climate change and the politics of synecdoche in the Maldives. Global Environmental Change Vol. 35. 190-198.
2021 Fellow, Obermann Institute for Advanced Study, University of Iowa
2020-2021 Postdoctoral Fellowship in Global Governance, Institute for the Study of International Development, McGill University
2019-21 European Research Council Project on "Local Indicators of Climate Change Impacts" - Project Partner for Peruvian Andes
2019 Winter Visual Arts Center Cross-Pollinator Residency, Franklin & Marshall College (for a visual arts installation planned for 2021)
2019 Center for Sustained Engagement with Lancaster - Seed Grant for engaged public anthropology research on environmental migration
2017 Wenner-Gren Foundation Engaged Anthropology Grant
2017 Lichtstern Distinguished Dissertation Prize for Best Ph.D. Thesis in Anthropology, University of Chicago
2016 Wayne C. Booth Prize for Excellence in Teaching, Office of the Provost, University of Chicago
2016-2017 Postdoctoral Fellowship in Global Governance, Institute for the Study of International Development, McGill Universit
2016 Ignacio Martín Baró Prize Lectureship in Latin American Studies and Human Rights, University of Chicago
2015 Mellon Foundation - Hanna Holborn Gray Advanced Fellowship in the Humanistic Social Sciences, University of Chicago
2014 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship
2013 Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
2013 Inter-American Foundation Grassroots Development Fellowship
2013 UC Irvine Institute for Money, Technology, and Financial Inclusion Research Grant
B.A. Columbia University, 2009 - Anthropology and English
M.A. University of Chicago, 2012 - Anthropology
Ph.D. University of Chicago, 2016 - Anthropology