I am an environmental anthropologist whose research focuses on the relationship between environmental change, economic development, and indigenous livelihoods. My work encompasses three broad research projects. My current project, Extracting Sustainability, consists of a book manuscript in progress and a series of related journal articles rooted in a decade of ongoing ethnographic research in Peru. This work explores small-scale development initiatives focused on indigenous entrepreneurship and ecological expertise in a network of communities in Andean Peru. Building on several case studies, I argue for rethinking the practices and policies of sustainable development in a country that has been reshaped by a mining boom since the 1990s. Do NGO-driven projects identified as "sustainable" have anything in common with Peru's large-scale extractive development? I suggest that these are fundamentally linked. Development big and small is best defined not as a way to alleviate poverty or improve livelihoods, but more fundamentally as the work of managing a nation's resource abundance.
A second project I have initiated is tentatively titled After Development: Climate Change and the New Frontiers of Adaptation. That research will examine the local implications of global climate change for communities in the highlands of Latin America and islands of South Asia.
At Franklin & Marshall, I have launched the Environmental Migration Lab, a collaborative, interdisciplinary, student-driven digital humanities project housed in Hackman Hall. In a project that combines the methods of Story Maps with Story Corps, we are pairing migrant life histories with mapping tools to follow the journeys people take when they migrate due to environmental change. Our initial focus is migrants and refugees in Lancaster, PA, recently deemed "America's refugee capital." We will have a website up soon. If you are an F&M student and interested in contributing to this project, please send me an email.
I completed my Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Chicago. Before coming to F&M I was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Global Governance at McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development.
You can learn more about my research and see images from my fieldwork on my website.
When NGOs leave
Starting in the summer of 2017, I began a new fieldwork project in Peru that seeks to answer the following question: What happens when NGOs leave? I'm specifically looking at small-scale non-governmental organizations that focus on sustainable development in initiatives that last 1-3 years. This is my first round of interviews and field observations for the After Development project.
A recent blog post offers an opening perspective on a round of focus group interviews I conducted in Peru's Colca Valley.
In press 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)
2018 Hirsch, Eric. Remapping the Vertical Archipelago: Mobility, Migration, and the Everyday Labor of Andean Development. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology.
2017 Hirsch, Eric. Investment’s Rituals: “Grassroots” Extractivism and the Making of an Indigenous Gold Mine in the Peruvian Andes. (Theme 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. (Theme Issue: Culture, Power, Degrowth).
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.
2017 Wenner-Gren Foundation Engaged Anthropology Grant
2017 Lichstern 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
2016-17 Postdoctoral Fellowship in Global Governance, Institute for the Study of International Development, McGill University
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