Paige West, the Tow Professor of Anthropology, 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 chair of the Barnard College Department of Anthropology.
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. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Australia, Germany, England, and the United States.
Dr. West’s most recent books are From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The World of Coffee from Papua New Guinea (2012, Duke University Press) (2013 runner up for the Julian Steward Award from the American Anthropological Association), Conservation is our Government now: The Politics of Ecology in Papua New Guinea (2006, Duke University Press), and, co-edited with James G. Carrier, Virtualism, Governance, and Practice: Vision and Execution in Environmental Conservation (2009 Berghahn Press). She is also the author of numerous articles.
In 2002 Dr. West received the American Anthropological Association’s Anthropology and Environment Junior Scholar Award, in 2004 she received the American Association of University Women Junior Faculty Fellowship and the American Council of Learned Societies Faculty Fellowship, and in 2006 she received the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Fellowship. In 2012 she became the Chair of the Ecology and Culture University Seminar at Columbia University.
Dr. West, who is a past president of the Anthropology and Environment Section of the American Anthropological Association, is currently the chair of the Association of Social Anthropology in Oceania. She is also the founder and co-editor of the journal Environment and Society: Advances in Research.
In 2013 Dr. West delivered the Leonard Hastings Schoff Memorial Lectures at Columbia University.
In addition to her academic work, Dr. West is a co-founder of the PNG Institute of Biological Research, a small NGO dedicated to building academic opportunities for research in PNG for Papua New Guineans. She is now on its board of directors. Dr. West is also the volunteer anthropologist for the PNG NGO Ailan Awareness (AA), a marine-focused organization that works with communities in New Ireland and New Hanover to facilitate the conservation of their traditions, languages, and natural resources.