Jerry Jacka
Associate Professor, Department Chair
(Ph.D. • U. of Oregon • 2003)

HALE 467

Office Hours
M 1:00-3:00
& by appt.


As an environmental anthropologist, I am interested in studying the diverse ways that humans and their environments influence one another. Broadly, my work examines the intersection of economic development, the environment, and livelihood sustainability. A major question driving my research is: How do people collectively respond to risks, hazards, and disruptions in their societies and environments? I am currently exploring this topic in two areas: highlands Papua New Guinea and southwestern Colorado.

My research in the Porgera valley, Enga Province, Papua New Guinea has looked at the impacts of the world-class Porgera Gold Mine on the Ipili, Enga, and Huli people and their ecological knowledge and resource management practices. In addition to the selected publications below, my book, Alchemy in the Rain Forest: Politics, Ecology, and Resilience in a New Guinea Mining Area, by Duke University Press in 2015, addresses these issues.

My most recent project in southwestern Colorado examines the multitudinous ways that communities and regions reshape their social, economic, and environmental landscapes in the wake of mine closure and the on-going impacts of environmental pollution from abandoned mine lands. Throughout the American West, former mining communities and landscapes have been transformed from sites of production into sites of consumption, especially in terms of recreation and outdoor activities, due to their locations in areas of natural scenic beauty. At the same time, many of these communities are surrounded by legacy mines, many of which were abandoned well before the modern era of environmental regulation and reclamation. Acid mine drainage and the loading of toxic metals into streams constitute a complex set of problems that most of these communities face. My research seeks to understand how communities, non-governmental organizations, and governmental institutions coalesce to resolve these complex social-ecological problems.


My courses are based on contemporary topics in environmental anthropology. At the undergraduate level I teach Cultures and Changing Ecosystems – to better understand concepts of resilience, vulnerability, and sustainability throughout human history, Cross-Cultural Aspects of Socio-Economic Development, and The Anthropology of Mining. At the graduate level I teach Space, Place, and Capitalism, as well as teaching the required Cultural Core I class – a historical analysis of cultural and social theory.

Selected Publications

Mawyer, A. and J. K. Jacka. 2018. Sovereignty, Conservation, and Island Ecological Futures. Environmental Conservation 45(3): 238-251.

Jacka, J.K. (2018) The Anthropology of Mining: The Social and Environmental Impacts of Resource Extraction in the Mineral Age. Annual Review of Anthropology 47: 61-77.

Wagner, J.R. and J.K. Jacka, eds. (2018) Island Rivers: Fresh Water and Place in Oceania. Canberra: Australian National University Press.

Jacka, J. K. (2016) Development Conflicts and Changing Mortuary Practices in a New Guinea Mining Area. The Journal of the Polynesian Society 125(2): 133–147.

Jacka, J. K. (2016) “Correlating Local Knowledge with Climatic Data: Porgeran Experiences of Climate Change in Papua New Guinea.” In Anthropology and Climate Change: From Actions to Transformations, 2nd ed., pp. 186–199. S. Crate and M. Nutall (Eds.). Walnut Grove, CA: Left Coast Press.

Jacka, J. K. (2015) “The Impact of Mining Development on Settlement Patterns, Firewood Availability and Forest Structure in Porgera“. In Tropical Forests of Oceania: Anthropological Perspectives, pp. 95–126. J. Bell, P. West, and C. Filer (Eds.). Canberra: Australian National University Press.

Jacka, J. K. (2010) The Spirits of Conservation: Ecology, Christianity and Resource Management in Highlands Papua New GuineaJournal for the Study of Religion 4(1): 24–47.

Jacka, J. K. (2009) “Global Averages, Local Extremes: The Subtleties and Complexities of Climate Change in Papua New Guinea.” In Anthropology and Climate Change: From Encounters to Actions, pp. 197–208. S. Crate and M. Nuttall (Eds.). Walnut Grove, CA: Left Coast Press.

Jacka, J. K. (2007) Whitemen, the Ipili, and the City of Gold: A History of the Politics of Race and Development in Highlands New GuineaEthnohistory 54(3): 445–471.

Jacka, J. K. (2007) “‘Our Skins are Weak’: Ipili Modernity and the Demise of Discipline.” In Embodying Modernity and Postmodernity: Ritual, Praxis, and Social Change in Melanesia, pp. 39–67. S. Bamford (Ed.). Durham: Carolina Academic Press.

Jacka, J. K. (2005) Emplacement and Millennial Expectations in an Era of Development and Globalization: Heaven and the Appeal of Christianity among the IpiliAmerican Anthropologist 107(4): 643–653.

Jacka, J. K. (2002) Cults and Christianity among the Enga and IpiliOceania 72(3): 196–214.

Jacka, J. K. (2001) Coca Cola and Kolo: Land, Ancestors, and DevelopmentAnthropology Today 17(4): 3–8.