S. Eben Kirksey
September 2015 – June 2016 Visiting Professor of Anthropology and the Princeton Environmental Institute Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and Humanities
Kirksey is a permanent faculty member in the Environmental Humanities program at the University of New South Wales. While crossing conventional disciplinary divides, his research has contributed to theoretical conversations in the social sciences, biology, the humanities, and the creative arts. He has published two books and two edited collections: “Freedom in Entangled Worlds: West Papua and the Global Architecture of Power” (2012), “Emergent Ecologies” (2015), “The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography” (2010), and “The Multispecies Salon” (2014). Writing in collaboration with MIT anthropologist Stefan Helmreich, Kirksey coined the phrase “multispecies ethnography” to characterize novel approaches for studying contact zones where lines separating nature from culture have broken down. Kirksey’s forthcoming book “Emergent Ecologies” follows the flight of capital and nomadic forms of life through fragmented landscapes of Panama, Costa Rica, and the United States. It explores how chance encounters, historical accidents, and parasitic invasions have shaped present and future multispecies communities. Kirksey earned his Ph.D. from the History of Consciousness Program at University of California, Santa Cruz—an inter-disciplinary department with faculty who have influenced the fields of anthropology, museums studies, literary criticism, and science studies. He also holds a master’s degree in history from the University of Oxford.
While at Princeton
While at Princeton Kirksey taught a seminar “Environmental Art: Thinking, Making, Dreaming” which was underwritten by the Henry David Thoreau Freshman Seminar in Environmental Studies. Students in the class became curators of an art exhibit which traveled from Princeton to New York City. Kirksey also taught an upper-level course “Human Nature: A Multispecies Relationship.” Bringing together students from a diversity of backgrounds—from molecular biology, anthropology, and environmental studies—this course explored possible futures for the human species.
Kirksey facilitated the Multispecies Salon: Environmental Humanities Dialogues involving Princeton faculty from the Anthropology Department; Molecular Biology; the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Civil and Environmental Engineering; the Department of History; as well as the Lewis Center. Over the course of the year, he hosted eight special events involving visitors from Rice University, London, University of College Cork, Columbia University, and a host of other universities in the region. Marking the end of the events, he organized a two-day symposium “Gut Reactions” that explored how microbes living in human bodies can influence processes like digestion, immunity, and even cognition.