Eric Cunningham
Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies

Eric Cunningham is a socio-cultural anthropologist who studies the cultural dimensions of sustainability and resource management both as globalized sets of ideas and practices and as practical dilemmas confronting local communities in Japan. His particular focus is on forest ecologies in Japan’s Kiso Valley.

Contact Info

Campus Mail
Drawer 73

Phone
765-983-1224

E-mail
cunnier@earlham.edu

Office
Landrum Bolling Center

Office Hours
Monday 11am-12pm; Thursday 10am-11am

Programs/Departments

  • Japanese Studies
  • East Asian Studies
  • Environmental Studies
  • International Studies

Degrees

  • Ph.D., University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • M.A., University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • B.A., Utah State University

Selected Courses:

I teach courses related to Japanese culture and society as well as courses related to environments in Japan and the greater East Asia region. Among the courses I teach are: Introduction to Japanese Studies; Japanese Popular Culture; Japanese Culture and the Environment; and Political Ecologies of East Asia.

As a cultural anthropologist I study human-environment interactions and the ways in which globalized flows of capital, materials, and ideas influence how people give meaning to and interact with the places they inhabit. My central academic interests revolve around the cultural dimensions of sustainability and resource management both as globalized sets of ideas and practices and as practical dilemmas confronting local communities in Japan.    My primary research looks at forest ecologies in Japan’s Kiso Valley as contested spaces where meanings are produced by local residents, government officials, and other actors who draw upon global networks of materials, ideas, and relationships. I ask how forests in central Japan’s Kiso Valley come into being and are reproduced as cultural objects infused with contentious ideas of nature, nationhood, citizenship, and governance. I also examine the role these conceptual natures play in mediating human-environment interactions and struggles for sustainability.

As a cultural anthropologist I study human-environment interactions and the ways in which globalized flows of capital, materials, and ideas influence how people give meaning to and interact with the places they inhabit. My central academic interests revolve around the cultural dimensions of sustainability and resource management both as globalized sets of ideas and practices and as practical dilemmas confronting local communities in Japan.

My primary research looks at forest ecologies in Japan’s Kiso Valley as contested spaces where meanings are produced by local residents, government officials, and other actors who draw upon global networks of materials, ideas, and relationships. I ask how forests in central Japan’s Kiso Valley come into being and are reproduced as cultural objects infused with contentious ideas of nature, nationhood, citizenship, and governance. I also examine the role these conceptual natures play in mediating human-environment interactions and struggles for sustainability.

Contributed chapters

“Des forêts et des Hommes. Pouvoir, subjectivité et résilience dans une forêt gèrée par l'état   au Japon (Forests and Men. Power, subjectivity and resilience in managed forests of Japan).” In J-P Pierron and M-H Parizeau, Editors, Repenser la nature. Dialogue philosophique, Europe, Asie, Amériques. Québec: Les Presses de l'Université Laval. 2012.

“Introduction: Tailoring collaborative conservation in Bangladesh.” With M. Chassels and J.Fox. In J. Fox, W.B. Miles, M.G. Mustafa, S.A. Quazi, E.J. Cunningham, and M. Chassels, Editors, Rural livelihoods and protected landscapes: Co-management in the wetlands and forests of Bangladesh. Honolulu: East-West Center. 2010.

Conference presentations

“Everyone’s forests: productions of forest nature as commodity in Japan’s Kiso Valley.” Paper presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting, Denver, in a session entitled RESOURCEFULNESS: commodity/resource intersections in contemporary East Asia, March 23, 2013

“What Seems to Be the Problem: Diagnosis and Spectacles of Forest Management In Central Japan.” Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Montreal, in a session entitled Anthropology of Diagnostics: Investigations in Varying Ethnographic Contexts, November 19, 2011

“O-yama: mountain faith and community sustainability in Japan’s central highlands.” Paper presented at the 4th SSEASR International Conference: Mountains in the Religions of South and Southeast Asia: Place, Culture, and Power, Royal University of Bhutan, Thimphu, June 30, 2011

“Dam Close: Water Resource Development and the Production of Harmony in Central Japan.” Paper presented at School of Pacific and Asian Studies Graduate Student Conference, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, April 4, 2011

“It flows both ways: Water and circulation in Japan.” Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, in a session entitled Circulating Through the Two Japans, November 17, 2010

“Landscape history and forest governance in a Japanese mountain community.” Paper presented at Colloque international: Nature, technologies, éthique. Regards croisés: Asie, Europe, Amériques, University of Lyon, Lyon, March 13, 2010

“Between a forest and a hard place: power, subjectivity and resilience in a Japanese state-managed forest.” Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, December 3, 2009

“Power, subjectivity and resilience in a Japanese state-managed forest.” Paper presented at Anthropology of Japan in Japan Conference, Temple University Japan, Tokyo, November 15, 2009

“Socio-natural resilience: Anthropological engagement with environmental change research.” Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco November 20, 2008

American Anthropological Association
Association for Asian Studies
ASIANetwork

As a socio-cultural anthropologist, my interests lie in the meanings that humans give the world around them and how these shape their beliefs and behaviors. These interests inform my philosophy of teaching, which is rooted in commitments to diversity, justice, and a respect for all persons. I feel it is my responsibility as an educator to encourage and develop students’ abilities to critically engage with the world using appropriate methodological, conceptual, and theoretical tools, while instilling in them a sense of ethical consideration and respect. I find that my personal philosophy of teaching resonates deeply with the ideals of Earlham College and their expression in the thoughts and practices of students. This deep resonance continues to inform and propel my teaching at Earlham.

Earlham students are lively and engaged; they are passionate and committed to their ideals. They care about each other and the well-being of their communities. They are insightful, inquisitive, and eager to pursue truth while respecting diversity. Earlham students are a joy to teach.

The Earlham Scholars Risk and the Environment program offers a select group of students to explore the differences — geological, governmental and cultural — that influence community risk to disasters. Our initial exploration is of risk to tsunamis. In addition to a set of courses that span the social and natural sciences, students will take part in a study trip to the outer coast of the Pacific Northwest and to the Tohoku coast of Japan where they will learn to think comparatively about risk and resilience.

Being outdoors is my favorite past time outside of teaching. I often find myself on long drives and/or walks among the farms and forests of Wayne County. While exploring, I like to take photos, listen to birds, and look for flowers or trees that I do not yet know.

Spending time outdoors. Listening to jazz music. Gardening.

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