George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Susan F. Hirsch

Vernon M. and Minnie I. Lynch Chair of Conflict Analysis and Resolution
Professor of Conflict Resolution and Anthropology

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  • 703-993-9407 (office)
  • Arlington: Vernon Smith Hall, 5100
    3351 North Fairfax Drive, MS 4D3
    Arlington, VA 22201

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Susan F. Hirsch, a cultural anthropologist, is a Professor in the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) at George Mason University and Chair of S-CAR’s Faculty Board. From 2009 to present, she has been affiliated in Mason’s Women and Gender Studies Program. Professor Hirsch is the Principal Investigator for the Undergraduate Experiential Learning Project funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), 2011-2013. The project aims at linking theory to practice through pedagogical initiatives, such as experiential learning activities and service learning intensive programs. She is also a recepient of the Point of View Working Group Grant that aims at promoting better learning through practice, 2010-2011. Her current major research and book project (with Dr. Frank Dukes) focuses on conceptualizing stakeholders in the conflict over surface mining in Appalachia.

Professor Hirsch’s most recent book, titled In the Moment of Greatest Calamity: Terrorism, Grief and a Victim’s Quest for Justice (Princeton University Press, 2006) is a reflexive ethnography of her experiences of the 1998 East African Embassy bombings and the subsequent trial of four defendants. As a bombings survivor and a widow of a victim, Professor Hirsch began attending the embassy bombings trial in New York City in January, 2001, and over the next six months came to study it as a legal anthropologist. The volume highlights the difficulties experienced by a terror victim who opposes the death penalty yet seeks to participate in a capital trial. Professor Hirsch’s research interests and public speaking topics include debates over justice as a response to acts of terrorism and mass atrocity, controversies over Islamic law in the post-911 era, the politics of capital punishment and victims’ rights, and new forms of global justice, such as the International Criminal Court.

From 1990-2004 she taught at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, in the Department of Anthropology and the Women’s Studies Program. She received her B.A. in Anthropology from Yale University in 1982 and her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Duke University in 1990. Her training in legal anthropology led to research on conflict and culture, Islam, gender relations, and the legal systems of East Africa. Her book, Pronouncing and Persevering: Gender and the Discourses of Disputing in an African Islamic Court, is an ethnographic analysis of how gender relations are negotiated through marital disputes heard in Kenyan Islamic courts. Fluent in the Swahili language, she has conducted extensive fieldwork in Kenya and Tanzania since 1985, supported by a Fulbright Fellowship, the National Science Foundation, Wesleyan University, and Duke University, and she has held residential fellowships at the National Humanities Center, the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress (Rockefeller Fellowship), the American Bar Foundation, and Northwestern University’s Law and Social Science Program. Her academic publications include Contested States: Law, Hegemony, and Resistance (co-edited with Mindie Lazarus-Black; Routledge, 1994) and numerous articles on law reform, gender and conflict, reflexive and participatory research, and language in the disputing process, in edited volumes and journals, such as Law and Social Inquiry and Africa Today. She was the editor of PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review (1999-2002), and has served on the editorial board of the Law and Society Review and the American Ethnologist. She is currently the President of the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology (APLA), which is a 450-member section of the American Anthropological Association (AAA).


PhD, Anthropology, Duke University (1990)

BA, Anthropology, Yale College (1982)

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Faculty Rank: Professor

Honors & Awards

Hall of Fame Award - Ringgold Rams Club, Ringgold Rams Football Community Club

November 5, 2016

NSF Grant Award- "Legal Integration and Rule of Law: A Comparative Analysis", National Science Foundation

April 1, 2016

In the News

Lecture by Susan Hirsch at San Anton Palace

Published on January 13, 2016

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Faculty Spotlight on Innovation: Susan Hirsch & Agnieszka Paczynska

Published on February 21, 2014

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Ghailani Trial and Sentence Affirms US Federal Court System

Published on January 25, 2011

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A More Personal View of a Detainee’s Trial

Published on November 7, 2010

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Presentations & Performances

Dissertation Defense -- The Impact of Gender Mainstreaming on Men: The Case of Liberia

Apr 11 2012 | Arlington Truland Building

Law Day Conference on Civil Discourse 2010

Apr 30 2010 | Virgini

Dissertation Proposal Defense - Lisa McLean

Dec 6 2016 | Metropolitan Building

Centers and Publications