Paige West

Paige West

Research Interests

Research Concentrations

Environmental Anthropology, Political Ecology, Climate Change, Human-Animal Relationships, Ethnographic Writing                                                                                


The Pacific, Oceania; Papua New Guinea


Paige West joined the faculty at Barnard College and Columbia University in 2001, the year after earning her PhD in cultural and environmental anthropology at Rutgers University. Dr. West has worked in Papua New Guinea since 1996 and has conducted over ninety months of field-based research in the country. 

Dr. West’s broad scholarly interest is the relationship between societies and their environments. More specifically, she has written about the linkages between environmental conservation and international development, the material and symbolic ways in which the natural world is understood and produced, the aesthetics and poetics of human social relations with nature, and the creation of commodities and practices of consumption. 

In 2002 Dr. West received the American Anthropological Association’s Anthropology and Environment Junior Scholar award for her work, in 2004 she received the American Association of University Women Junior Faculty Fellowship and the American Council of Learned Societies Faculty Fellowship, in 2006 she received the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Fellowship, and in 2007 she was named a Fellow by the Association of Social Anthropology in Oceania. In 2009 she founded the peer review journal Environment and Society. She served as its editor for ten years. In 2012 she became the Chair of the Ecology and Culture University Seminar at Columbia. Recently, she has served as the chair of the Association of Social Anthropology in Oceania and is the past president of the Anthropology and Environment Society of the American Anthropological Association. In 2013 she delivered the Leonard Hastings Schoff Memorial Lectures at Columbia University. In 2015 she became the co-director of the Pacific Climate Circuits project at the Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University. In 2016 she was named a Distinguished Scholar by the National Social Environmental Synthesis Center and an advisor to the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) Science for Nature and People Initiative (SNaP). Finally, in 2017 and 2018 Dr. West served as a Phi Beta Kappa distinguished national lecturer. 

In addition to her academic work, Dr. West is the cofounder, and a board member, of the PNG Institute of Biological Research, a small NGO dedicated to building academic opportunities for research in Papua New Guinea by Papua New Guineans. Dr. West is also the cofounder of the Roviana Solwara Skul, a school in Papua New Guinea dedicated to teaching at the nexus of indigenous knowledge and western scientific knowledge. 

In addition to her position as the Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, Dr. West is the Director of the Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University and the codirector of the Barbara Silver Horowitz 55' Scholars of Distinction Program at Barnard. 


Rutgers University, PhD in Cultural and Environmental Anthropology, 1999
University of Georgia, MA in Anthropology, 1994
Wofford College, BS in Sociology, 1991

2019. "Translations, palimpsests, and politics: Environmental anthropology now." Ethos: Journal of Anthropology 82, no. 5.

2018. Editor. From Reciprocity to Relationality: Anthropological Possibilities. Special online issue, Cultural Anthropology.

2016. Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. 

2016. "An Anthropology for The Assemblage of the Now." Anthropological Fourm 26, no. 4 (December).

2015. Tropical Forests of Oceania: Anthropological Perspectives. Coeditor with Joshua Bell, and Colin Filer. Canberra: Australian National University Press.

2012. From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The Social Life of Coffee from Papua New Guinea. Durham: Duke University Press.  

2010. Coeditor with James G. Carrier. Surroundings, Selves and Others: the Political Economy of Identity and the Environment. Special issue, Landscape Research 34, no. 2. 

2010. "Making The Market: Specialty Coffee, Generational Pitches, and Papua New Guinea." Antipode 42, no. 3: 690–718. 

2009. Coeditor with James G. Carrier. Virtualism, Governance, and Practice: Vision and Execution in Environmental Conservation. New York: Berghahn Books.

2008. Coeditor with Bradley Walters, and Bonnie J. McCay. Susan Leeds. Against the Grain: The Vayda Tradition in Human Ecology and Ecological Anthropology. Lantham, MD: Lexington Books.

2006. Conservation is Our Government Now: The Politics of Ecology in Papua New Guinea. Durham: Duke University Press. 

2006b. "Environmental Conservation and Mining: Between Experience and Expectation in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea." The Contemporary Pacific 18, no. 2: 295–313. 

2006c. Coeditor with Martha Macintyre. "Melanesian Mining Modernities." The Contemporary Pacific 18, no. 2. 

2006d. Coauthor with Daniel Brockington and James Igoe. "Parks and Peoples: The Social Effects of Protected Areas." Annual Review of Anthropology 20, no. 3: 609–616.

2006e. Coauthor with Daniel Brockington. "Some Unexpected Consequences of Protected Areas: An Anthropological Perspective." Conservation Biology 20, no. 3: 609–616. 

2005. "Holding the Story Forever: The Aesthetics of Ethnographic Labor." Anthropological Forum 15, no. 3: 267–275. 

2005. "Translation, Value, and Space: Theorizing an Ethnographic and Engaged Environmental Anthropology." American Anthropologist 107, no. 4: 632–642.

2004. Coauthor with James G. Carrier. "Getting Away From It All? Ecotourism and Authenticity (with commentary and reply)." Current Anthropology 45, no. 4: 483–498.  

2001. "Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations and the Nature of Ethnographic Inquiry." Social Analysis 45, no. 2: 55–77.

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