Professor Paige West

Pronouns: She/Her

Professor, Anthropology, Barnard College

Director, Center for the Study of Social Difference

The Earth Institute

Millbank 411


Dr. Paige West holds The Claire Tow Professorship in Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University and serves as the Director of the Columbia University Center for the Study of Social Difference. She has worked in Papua New Guinea since 1996 and has conducted over 100 months of field-based research in the country focused on in the relationship between societies and their environments. 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, and the production of biodiversity-based commodities. Her current research is focused on sea level rise, the co-production of knowledge, the question of how people forge new lives in the face of climatic change, and Indigenous self-determination in Oceania. Read more aobut her work here.

Dr. West is the author of three books and the editor of five more. She has also published numerous scholarly papers. She is the founder of the journal Environment and Society: Advances in Research and served as its editor for a decade. Her most recent book, Dispossession and the Environment, won the 2017 Columbia University Press Distinguished Book Award. In 2018 she was a Phi Beta Kappa national distinguished visiting scholar and in 2021 she was named both one of 50 people changing the world by The Explorers Club and a Guggenheim Fellow.

In addition to her academic work, Dr. 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. 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. Together with her long-time research partner John Aini, and the NGO Ailan Awareness, she works with twelve communities in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea to facilitate their work towards socio-ecological sovereignty.


Only select projects listed below
Name Start Date End Date
Aunty: A Prayer for the World


Selected Publications / Books 

2016. Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

2015. Tropical Forests of Oceania: Anthropological Perspectives. Joshua Bell, Paige West and Colin Filer, eds. Canberra: Australian National University Press.

2012. From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The Social Life of Coffee from Papua New Guinea. Durham: Duke University Press.

2009 Virtualism, Governance, and Practice: Vision and Execution in Environmental Conservation. James G. Carrier and Paige West, eds. New York: Berghahn Books.

2006. Conservation is our Government Now: The Politics of Ecology in Papua New Guinea. Durham: Duke University Press.

Selected Publications / Special Editions, Peer Reveiw Journals, as Editor

2021. Offshore Detention in the Pacific. JC Salyer, Steffen Dalsgard, and Paige West, eds. The Contemporary Pacific.32(2).

2018. From Reciprocity to Relationality: Anthropological Possibilities. Paige West, ed. Cultural Anthropology (Online & Open Access, in Hot Spots), September 22.

2010. Surroundings, Selves and Others: The Political Economy of Identity and the Environment. James G. Carrier and Paige West, eds. Landscape Research, 34 (2).

2006. Melanesian Mining Modernities. Paige West and Martha Macintyre, eds. The Contemporary Pacific, 18 (2).

Selected Publications / Journal Articles

Aini, John, Paige West, Yolarnie Amepou, Michael Ladi Piskaut, Cornelius Gasot, Rachel S. James, Jason S. Roverts, Patrick Nason, and Anna Elyse Brachey. Under review. “Reimagining Conservation Practice: Indigenous Self Determination and Collaboration in Papua New Guinea. Oryx.

West, Paige, Et. Al. In review. Conservation and Governance. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 

West, Paige. 2021. “Reversing the question: Malinowskian Legacies and the Anthropology of Climate Change”, Economic Anthropology. 8(1):172-147.

West, Paige. 2020. “Becoming through the Mundane: Asylum Seekers and the Making of Selves in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea”. In, Offshore Detention in the Pacific. JC Salyer, Steffen Dalsgard, and Paige West, eds. The Contemporary Pacific. 32(2):468-476.

Salyer, JC, Steffen Dalsgaard, Paige West 2020. “It Is Not Because They Are Bad People”: Australia’s Refugee Resettlement in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The Contemporary Pacific 32(2): 435-448.

West, Paige. 2020. “Translations, palimpsests, and politics: Environmental Anthropology Now”. Ethos: Journal of Anthropology. 85(1):118–123.

West, Paige. 2018. “Introduction” in From Reciprocity to Relationality: Anthropological Possibilities. In, Paige West (ed)., Cultural Anthropology (Hot Spots). September 22.

West, Paige. 2017. “Town and Place: Old Territory, New Difference”. Cultural Dynamics. 29(4) 322-332.

Sterling, E.J., et. al. 2017. (one of 15 co-authors) “Biocultural approaches to well-being and sustainability indicators across scales”, Nature Ecology, and Evolution. 1, 1798–1806 (2017).

West, Paige. 2017. “Dispossession.” In Theorizing the Contemporary”, June 28. Cultural Anthropology. (online only)

West, Paige. 2016. “An Anthropology for The Assemblage of the Now”, Anthropological Forum. 26 (4) 438-445.

West, Paige. 2015. “Anthropological Indeterminacy”. HAU: The Journal of Ethnographic Theory. 5(1) 454–458.

Castree, Noel, et. al. 2014. (one of 23 co-authors) “Changing the Intellectual Climate”. Nature Climate Change 4, 763-768.

West, Paige. 2014. "Such A Site for Play, This Edge: Surfing, Tourism and Modernist Fantasy in Papua New Guinea”. The Contemporary Pacific 26 (2).

Ogden, Laura, Nik Heynen, Ulrich Oslender, Paige West, Karim-Aly Kassam, and Paul Robbins. 2013. “Place, Equity and Earth Stewardship in the Anthropocene”, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 11(7): 341-347.

West, Paige. 2012. “Globalization, Place, and Theory in Anthropology”. Anthropology Now. 4 (3): 97-108

Laurance, Bill, et. al. 2012. (one of 100 co-authors) “Averting biodiversity collapse in tropical forest protected areas”. Nature, 489, 290-294.

West, Paige. 2010. My Reply. (critical essay response to reviews of Conservation is Our Government Now). Pacific Studies 33 (1): 102 -120.

West, Paige. 2010. Making the Market: Specialty Coffee, Generational Pitches, and Papua New Guinea”. Antipode. 42 (3) 690 – 718.

West, Paige and James G. Carrier. 2010. Surroundings, Selves, and Others: The Political Economy of Environment and Identity”. Landscape Research. 34 (2) 157 – 170.

West, Paige. 2008. “Tourism as Science and Science as Tourism: Environment, Society, Self and Other in Papua New Guinea”. Current Anthropology. 49 (4):597-625.

Peterson, Richard, Paige West, Diane Russell and Peter Brosius. 2008. Seeing (and Doing) Conservation Through a Cultural Lenses”. Environmental Management 45:5–18.

West, Paige, and Daniel Brockington. 2006. “Some Unexpected Consequences of Protected Areas: An Anthropological Perspective”. Conservation Biology 20 (3):609-616.

West, Paige, Daniel Brockington, and James Igoe. 2006. “Parks and Peoples: The Social Effects of Protected Areas”. Annual Review of Anthropology 20 (3):609-616.

West, Paige. 2006. “Environmental Conservation and Mining: Between Experience and Expectation in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea”. The Contemporary Pacific 18 (2):295-313.

West, Paige. 2005. “Translation, Value, and Space: Theorizing an Ethnographic and Engaged Environmental Anthropology”. American Anthropologist 107 (4):632-642.

West, Paige. 2005. “Holding the Story Forever: The Aesthetics of Ethnographic Labor”. Anthropological Forum 15 (3):267-275.

West, Paige, and James G. Carrier. 2004. “Getting Away from It All? Ecotourism and Authenticity” (with commentary and reply). Current Anthropology 45 (4):483-498.

West, Paige. 2003. “Knowing the Fight: The Politics of Conservation in Papua New Guinea”. Anthropology in Action: Journal for Applied Anthropology in Policy and Practice 10 (2):38-45.

West, Paige. 2001. “Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations and the Nature of Ethnographic Inquiry”. Social Analysis45 (2):55-77.