Writer Anthropologist Collaborator

Bio

Paige West (she/her) is an endowed professor of anthropology, writer, and director for the of the Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University. Equally dedicated to scholarship, mentoring, and collaboration, Paige West is the author of three books and the founder of the journal Environment and Society: Advances in Research. She is the co-founder of the PNG Institute of Biological Research and the Roviana Solwara Skul, two conservation-focused NGOs in Papua New Guinea. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Research

Paige 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, the creation of commodities and practices of consumption, and the relationship between material and epistemic dispossessions and racism. Since 1996 she has worked with Indigenous collaborators and partners in Papua New Guinea. While trained as an anthropologist, Dr. West’s work sits more broadly within the transdisciplinary field of political ecology. 

Publications

Dispossession and the Environment

This searing study reveals how journalists, developers, surf tourists, and conservation NGOs produce and reinforce inequalities and facilitate dispossession by devaluing Papua New Guinean knowledge and practice.

Winner of the 2017 Columbia University Press Distinguished Book Award.

From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive

In this vivid ethnography, Paige West tracks coffee from Papua New Guinea, to Hamburg, Sydney, London, and New York, illuminating the social lives of the people who produce, process, distribute, market, and consume coffee.

Published in 2012 with Duke University Press

Conservation Is Our Government Now

A significant contribution to political ecology, this study examines the history and social effects of conservation and development efforts in Papua New Guinea, specifically the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area.

Published in 2006 with Duke University Press

Mentoring

Paige West is indebted to her anthropology mentors Dr. Dorothy L. Hodgson and Dr. Bonnie J. McCay, to the scholarship of Pacific Studies scholar Dr. Teresia K. Teaiwa, and to her students for her approach to teaching and mentoring. Following Dr. Hodgson and Dr. McCay, Dr. West approaches mentoring graduate students with an ethic of kindness that is wrapped into a clear vision of how students can best follow the scholarly paths that they desire. Following Dr. Teaiwa, she attempts to create classroom spaces that do not replicate the colonial and racist history of the academy. She does this through creating a shared space of co-production and co-teaching which she facilitates throughout the semester. Learning from her students over the past twenty years, she has realized that the best teaching and mentoring is flexible and open to radical reconsideration and change as scholarly practice becomes more capacious and inclusive.

Collaborations

In addition to her academic work, Paige West is the co-founder 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. For over a decade, she has worked in partnership with John Aini and the Indigenous marine sovereignty NGO Ailan Awareness. She 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.