Earlham College | A national liberal arts college in the Midwest
COVID-19 news, plans and updates | READ MORE
Skip to Content
Eric Cunningham
Associate Professor of Japanese Studies

Eric J Cunningham is an anthropologist who focuses on human-environment interactions in Japan with an emphasis on the ways in which these are informed by cultural understandings and relationships of power. His book project, The Unseen Forest: Spectacles of Nature and Governance in a Japanese national forest, looks at conflicting understandings of forest environments in the highlands of central Japan.

Contact Info

Campus Mail
Drawer 13



229 Landrum Bolling Center


  • Japanese Studies
  • East Asian Studies
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • International Studies
  • Anthrozoology Applied Minor


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

Selected Courses:

Cultures and Societies of Japan
Power, Society and the Environment in East Asia
Tourism in Japan and the Pacific
Japanese Culture and the Environment

  • Human-environment interactions
  • Japan
  • East Asia
  • Environmental Anthropology
  • Political Ecology
  • Critical Tourism Studies

My first research project, The Unseen Forest, 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.

In my second project I take a critical look at tourism, especially ecotourism, as an answer to the economic and demographic troubles of rural communities in Japan. Specifically, I am interested in the roles that tourism plays in how rural communities and environments are imagined, constructed, and maintained; as well as how tourism structures regimes of labor.


The Unseen Forest: Spectacles of Nature and Governance in a Japanese National Forest (book manuscript, forthcoming).


2018. Nature interrupted: affect and ecology in the wake of volcanic eruption in Japan, Conservation and Society 16 (1):41-51

2018. Gambling on Bodies: Assembling Sport and Gaming in Japan’s Keirin Bicycle Racing, Japanese Studies 38 (1): 57-74

2016. Cunningham, E. J. Dam Close Water Resources and Productions of Harmony in Central Japan. Nature and Culture, 11, 69-92.


2016. (Re)creating forest natures: Assemblage and political ecologies of ecotourism in Japan's central highlands. In Political Ecology of Tourism: Community, power and the environment, eds. M. Mostafanezhad, R. Norum, E. J. Shelton & A. Thompson-Carr. New York: Routledge.

American Anthropological Association
Society for East Asian Anthropology
Anthropology and Environment Society
Association for Asian Studies

My teaching philosophy 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.

Being outdoors is my favorite past-time. I often find myself on long drives and/or walks with my dog, Pualani. While exploring, I like to take photos, listen to birds, and look for flowers or trees that I do not yet know.

Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Earlham College
801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
1-765-983-1200 — Main Switchboard
1-800-EARLHAM (327-5426) — Admission


Earlham admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.