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 Ph.D. in cultural and environmental anthropology. She holds The Claire Tow Professorship in Anthropology and serves as the Director of the Columbia University Climate School Transdisciplinary Research Lab. Dr. West has worked with Indigenous peoples in Melanesia since the 1990s to understand their biodiversity-focused traditions and has collaborated with many communities to revitalize their socio-ecological systems. She has conducted over 100 months of field-based research in Papua New Guinea. 

Dr. West’s broad scholarly interest is in 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 by Indigenous peoples and natural scientists, the aesthetics and poetics of human social relations with nature, and the creation of commodities and practices of consumption. Her current research is focused on the question of how people forge new lives in the face of climate change. 

Dr. West is the author of three books and the editor of five more. She has also published numerous scholarly papers.  In 2009 Dr. West founded the peer-review journal Environment and Society: Advances in Research and served as its editor for a decade. Dr. West’s most recent book, Dispossession and the Environment, won the 2017 Columbia University Press Distinguished Book Award. Her current book project, Aunty: A Prayer for the World, funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship, is forthcoming. 

In 2002 Dr. West received the American Anthropological Association’s Anthropology and Environment Junior Scholar award, in 2004 she received both 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 2012 she became the Chair of the Ecology and Culture University Seminar at Columbia. 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, an honor given to one faculty member a year. 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 Science for Nature and People Initiative. In 2017 and 2018 Dr. West served as a Phi Beta Kappa distinguished national lecturer. In 2021 she was named “one of 50 people changing the world” by the Explorers Club. Dr. West is also a Guggenheim Fellow. 

In addition to her academic work, Dr. West is the co-founder, 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 co-founder of the Roviana Solwara Skul, a school in Papua New Guinea dedicated to teaching at the nexus of indigenous knowledge and western scientific knowledge. She currently serves as the Anthropological Director for the NGO Ailan Awareness. You can learn more about her work on her personal website:


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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