A recent article in The Monthly, an Australian publication focusing on politics and culture, highlights research from anthropology professors Paige West and J.C. Salyer about the presence of foreign government entities on Manus Island, which is part of Papua New Guinea. The existence of an Australian detention center on the island raises complex questions regarding New Guinean sovereignty, which Prof. West explains in the article. An excerpt:
"Manusians have both suffered under and capitalised upon foreign intrusions in the past. Whether they ultimately gain or lose from this moment is a question a new generation of anthropologists is positioning to explore. They’re led by a team from Barnard College and Columbia University—[Margaret] Mead’s alma maters—but are working in partnership with Papua New Guinean anthropologists and legal scholars.
'The Manus Island detention centre calls the sovereignty of Manus Islanders into question, as well as the sovereignty of Papua New Guinea more generally,' says Dr Paige West, a professor of anthropology and the project leader with immigration specialist Dr JC Salyer. The deal raises the question of whether 'postcolonial societies and states are going to be coerced by their former colonisers to bear the burden of the global refugee problem.'"
Read a summary of Profs. West and Salyer's current research in Papua New Guinea, which is supported by a National Science Foundation grant.
Prof. West’s general research interest is the relationship between society and the environment. 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. She is also the co-founder of the PNG Institute of Biological Research, a small NGO dedicated to building academic opportunities for research in PNG among Papua New Guineans.
Prof. Salyer is a lawyer and an anthropologist whose work focuses on law and society, immigration law, and social justice. He is the staff attorney for the Arab-American Family Support Center, a community-based organization in Brooklyn, and runs the organization’s immigration clinic. His research focuses on the legal formalism of deportation decisions and how the exclusion of social factors and personal history effect determinations of immigration status. In addition to his work on immigration, he received the William J. Brennan First Amendment Fellowship to work at the American Civil Liberties Union national legal department and was a staff attorney at the ACLU of New Jersey. His teaching focuses on the relationship between social science, law, and public policy.