Paige West

The Claire Tow Professor Of Anthropology

Paige West joined the faculty at Barnard College and Columbia University in 2001, the year after earning her Ph.D. Rutgers University.  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. 


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 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.

In addition to her position as the Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, Dr. West is the Director of the Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University and the co-director of the Barbara Silver Horowitz 55' Scholars of Distinction Program at Barnard.

Academic Focus: 


Climate Change 

Political ecology

Oceania / Papua New Guinea


Dr. West’s most recent books are Dispossession and The Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea (2016, Columbia University Press - winner of the 2017 Columbia University Press Distinguished Book Award), 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; one of the finalist for the 2014 Society for Economic Anthropology book award), Conservation is our Government now: The Politics of Ecology in Papua New Guinea (2006, Duke University Press), Tropical Forests of Oceania, co-edited with Joshua Bell and Colin Filer, 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.




B.A., Wofford College

M.A., The University of Georgia

MPhil., Ph.D., Rutgers University

In the News

This winter, Barnard faculty members were awarded prestigious research grants that support an array of interests, enabling them to conduct collaborative research with other institutions. 

Faculty members from the departments of anthropology and pyschology were recently selected to receive significant research grant awards that will support them in collaborative research or honor them for their committment to their field of study.

A discussion of discusses indigenous issues, political ecology, and Facebook’s role in Papua New Guinea.

  • 1 of 5
  • »