Eric Hirsch

Head of Department
Social Anthropology

Room: Marie Jahoda Room 134
Brunel University
Uxbridge, UB8 3PH
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)1895 265953



  • PhD Anthropology (LSE)
  • MSc Anthropology (LSE)
  • BSc Civil Engineering (Missouri)

Personal Biography

I initially trained as an engineer but later found that anthropology was what really interested me. LSE allowed me to do an MSc and I then carried on from there, pursuing doctoral research in Papua New Guinea (PNG) while working under the supervision of the late Alfred Gell. My initial research in the Papua highlands, among the Fuyuge, examined the connections between landscape, myth, power and ritual and their significance. I later came to supplement this work with historical research on colonial government and mission influences on the Fuyuge. My PNG research also brought me into close contact with Marilyn Strathern and the combined research she had conducted in Britain and PNG.


Research Overview

My long-standing interest in the ethnography and history of PNG has led me to focus on issues of historicity, landscape, power and property relations. My research in Britain has led to my interest in the connections between new kinds of technologies and new social forms. These diverse ethnographic research projects have also led me to appreciate the ways in which ethnography is linked to specific knowledge conventions and the implications this has for the understandings we produce as anthropologists.


Current Projects

The Politics of Alterity and Values of Symmetry in Fuyuge Myths and Ritual (Papua New Guinea)


Recently Completed Projects

I have recently completed a number of studies that examine conceptions and representations of the past and ‘history’ in Melanesian societies. This is part of a larger project, first developed with Charles Stewart (UCL) that explores the concept of historicity and how it is studied ethnographically.


PhD Supervision

Benjamin Bowles: 1st supervisor (Narrowboats, Southern England)

Adnan Khan: 1st supervisor (“Paktunwali”, Pakistan)

Brigida Marovelli: 1st supervisor (Catania Market, Sicily)

Radika Nauth: 1st supervisor (Drug treatment facilities, London)

Audrey Callum: 2nd supervisor (Cultural variations of diabetes, Caribbean)

Julie Hastings: 2nd supervisor (Foreign drug treatment programmes, Kenya)

Ditte Sass: 2nd supervisor (Schooling and welfare, Denmark)



Undergraduate Programmes

Module convenor

  • Anthropology of the Person

Module contributor

  • Fieldwork Encounters: Thinking Through Ethnography

Postgraduate Programmes

Programme convenor

  • MRes Social Anthropology

Module convenor

  • Research Student Seminar
  • Anthropology of the Person


  • Head of Department
  • School Management Committee
  • School Research Committee
  • School Postgraduate Research Committee
  • ERASMUS (Anthropology) Convenor
  • PhD Convenor (Anthropology)
  • MRes Social Anthropology Convenor

External Activity

  • Honorary Secretary, Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI)
  • Chair, Urgent Anthropology Committee, RAI
  • Editorial Board, Oceania
  • Editorial Board, Hau
  • Editorial Board, CRESC Book Series, Routledge
  • Editorial Board, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI)



Journal Papers

(2010) Hirsch, EL., Property and persons: new forms and contests in the era of neoliberalism, Annual Reviews in Anthropology 39 347- 360

(2008) Hirsch, E., God or tidibe? Melanesian Christianity and the problem of wholes, Ethnos 73 (2) : 141- 162

(2007) Hirsch, E., Looking like a culture, Anthropological Forum 17 (3) : 225- 238

(2007) Hirsch, E., Kapferer, B., Martin, E., Tsing, A. and Nils., 'Anthropologists Are Talking' about anthropology after globalisation, Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 72 (1) : 102- 126

(2007) Hirsch, E., Valleys of historicity and ways of power among the fuyuge, Oceania 77 (2) : 158- 171

(2006) Hirsch, EL., Landscape, myth and tim, Journal of Material Culture 11

(2005) Hirsch, E. and Stewart, C., Introduction: Ethnographies of historicity, History and Anthropology 16 (3) : 261- 274

(2004) Hirsch, EL., Environment and economy: Mutual connections and diverse perspectives, Anthropological Theory 4 (4) : 435- 453

(2004) Hirsch, E., Techniques of vision: Photography, disco and renderings of present perceptions in highland Papua, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 10 (3) : 19- 39

(2003) Hirsch, E., A landscape of powers in highland Papua, C. 1899-1918, History and Anthropology 14 (1) : 3- 22

(2001) Hirsch, EL., Making up people in Papua, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 7 (2) : 241- 256

(2001) Hirsch, E., New boundaries of influence in highland Papua: 'Culture', mining and ritual conversions, Oceania 71 (4) : 298- 312

(2001) Hirsch, EL., When was modernity in Melanesia?, Social Anthropology 9 (2) : 131- 146

(2001) Schlecker, M. and Hirsch, E., Incomplete knowledge: Ethnography and the crisis of context in studies of media, science and technology, History of the Human Sciences 14 (1) : 69- 87

(1999) Hirsch, E., Colonial units and ritual units: Historical transformations of persons and horizons in highland Papua, Comparative Studies in Society and History 41 (4) : 805- 828

(1994) Hirsch, E., Between mission and market: events and images in a Melanesian society, Man 29 (3) : 689- 711

(1990) Hirsch, E., From bones to betelnuts - processes of ritual transformation and the development of national culture in Papua-New-Guinea, Man 25 (1) : 18- 34

Book Chapters

(2011) Hirsch, EL. and Moretti, D., One past and many pasts: Varieties of historical holism in Melanesia and the West. In: Otto, T. and Bubandt, N. eds. Experiments in Holism: Theory and Practice in Contemporary Anthropology. Oxford : Wiley-Blackwell 279- 298

(2008) Hirsch, EL., Disrupting the view, revealing the landscape. In: Elwes, C. and Ball, S. eds. Figuring Landscapes: Artists' Moving Image from Australia and the UK. Afterall Publishing

(2008) Hirsch, EL., Knowing, not knowing, knowing anew. In: Halstead, N., Hirsch, E. and Okely, J. eds. Knowing how to know: Fieldwork and the ethnographic present. Oxford : Berghahn Books 21- 37

(2008) Hirsch, EL., Good ways and bad ways: transformations of law and mining in Papua New Guinea. In: Jiménez, AC. ed. Culture and well-being. Pluto Press

(2008) Hirsch, EL., Paradoxes of the cosmopolitan in Melaneisa. In: Werbner, P. ed. Anthropology and the New Cosmopolitanism. Berg Publishers 197- 214

(2007) Hirsch, EL., Betelnut 'bisnis' and cosmology: A view from Papua New Guinea. In: Goodman, J., Sherratt, A. and Lovejoy, PE. eds. Consuming Habits: Drugs in History and Anthropology. London : Psychology Press 86- 97

(2007) Hirsch, E., Epochs of scale-making in Papua. In: Lien, M. and Melhuus, M. eds. Holding worlds together: Ethnographies of knowing and belonging. Oxford : Berghahn Books -

(2006) Hirsch, EL., Afterword: Embodied historicities. In: Bamford, S. ed. Embodying modernity and postmodernity: Ritual, praxis and social change in Melanesia. Durham : NC: Carolina Academic Press

(2001) Hirsch, EL., Mining boundaries and local land narrative (tidibe) in the Udabe Valley, Central Province. In: Kalinoe, LK. and Leach, J. eds. Rationales of Ownership: Ethnographic Studies of Transactions and Claims to Ownership in Contemporary Papua New Guinea. New Delhi : UBS Publishers' Distributors


(2008) Halstead, N., Hirsch, E. and Oxely, J., Knowing how to know: Fieldwork and the ethnographic present. Berghahn Books

(2005) Hirsch, E. and Macdonald, S., Creativity or temporality? (special issue of Cambridge Anthropology). Cambridge Department of Social Anthropology

(2004) Hirsch, E. and Strathern, M., Transactions and creations: property debates and the stimulus of Melanesia. New York: Berghahn Books

(2001) Gellner, DN. and Hirsch, E., Inside Organizations: Anthropologists at Work. Berg Publishers

Page last updated: Tuesday 17 June 2014