Paige West

Paige West

Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University

Paige West's broad scholarly interest is the relationship between societies and their environments. 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 creation of commodities and practices of consumption and, most recently, dispossession and the environment. Since the mid 1990s she has worked with indigenous people in Papua New Guinea.

Dr. West has two current research projects. The first focuses on epistemic practice and ontological proposition as they are related to climate change and involves work with people living in island communities, scientists studying global warming, and politicians and policy makers in three countries. The second focuses on the relationship between dispossession and material culture and pays special attention to Malagan objects from New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. 

Dr. West’s publications include Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea (2016, Columbia University Press), From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The World of Coffee from Papua New Guinea (2012, Duke University Press), and Conservation is our Government Now: The Politics of Ecology in Papua New Guinea (2006, Duke University Press). She is the co-editor of Tropical Forests of Oceania: Anthropological Perspectives (2015, Australian National University Press), Virtualism, Governance and Practice (2009, Berghahn Books), and Against the Grain: The Vayda Tradition in Human Ecology and Ecological Anthropology (2008, Lexington Books). 

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. Dr. West is also the founder and editor of the journal Environment and Society.

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