Paige West, the Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, has been named a Visiting Scholar for the 2017–2018 academic year, by the Phi Beta Kappa Society. This is the second consecutive year a Barnard professor has received the honor; David Weiman, the Alena Wels Hirschorn '58 Professor of Economics and Faculty Director of the Empirical Reasoning Center, received the 2016–2017 disctinction. West is one of 15 scholars chosen from a range of disciplines that include chemistry, history, and planetary science.
The Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program was founded in 1956 as a way for undergraduates "to spend time with some of America's most distinguished scholars...to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students."
As a Visiting Scholar, West will spend two days on each of the Phi Beta Kappa campuses across the country by participating in the academic life of the institution. Scholars meet with students and faculty members, collaborate in classroom and seminar discussions, and give a public lecture. There are 286 campuses with Phi Beta Kappa chapters, and schools can apply for a visit from a Visiting Scholar. Throughout the course of the year, the Visiting Scholars will travel to a total of more than 100 colleges.
Prof. West joined Barnard's faculty in 2001. Her research interest explores the relationship between societies and their environments. Specifically, she writes about the intersections between indigenous practices and conservation science, the connection between environmental conservation and international development, and other anthropological ways in which the natural world is understood and produced. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Australia, Germany, England, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the United States and is a co-founder of the PNG Institute of Biological Research, which builds educational and research opportunities for Papua New Guineans.
In addition to this honor on September 28, 2017, West was awarded the Columbia University Press Distinguished Book Award for her book Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea.