Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University
Paige West, Director of Columbia University's Center for the study of Social Difference, joined the faculty at Barnard College and Columbia University in 2001, the year after earning her Ph.D. in cultural and environmental anthropology at Rutgers University. She is currently The Claire Tow Professor, an endowed chair in Anthropology. Dr. West has worked in Papua New Guinea since 1996 and has conducted over 90 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.
Dr. West is the author of three books and the editor of five more. She has also published many scholarly papers. In 2008 Dr. West founded the journal Environment and Society: Advances in Research. She currently serves as the journal’s editor. Dr. West’s most recent book, Dispossession and the Environment, is the winner of the 2017 Columbia University Press Distinguished Book Award.
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 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 Enviornmental 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 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.