Schoff Lecture Series

The twenty-first series of the Leonard Hastings Schoff Memorial Lectures
to be given by

Tow Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University

Accumulation by Dispossession?: Loss, Change, and the future of the Melanesian Pacific

Tourism and Fantasy in the Contemporary Pacific
November 11, 8PM, Faculty House

Scientific Discovery and Indigenous Ontology
November 18, 8PM, Faculty House

The Elusive Concept of “Capacity Building” in International Development
November 25, 8PM, Faculty House

The Melanesian Pacific is a place where we see persistent alternative social relationships that are based on indigenous ontological formations as opposed to liberal notions of the self and others. Many of these social relations are not configured through market exchange. By thinking through the analytic usefulness of “Accumulation by Dispossession” with materials from Melanesia we may shed light on larger questions about personhood, nature, culture and possible global futures. Over the past ten years the analytic abstraction “Accumulation by Dispossession” has become a popular frame in the social sciences for thinking about the loss of land, citizenship, natural resources, and rights as well as the growth of global inequality. This new attention to “Accumulation by Dispossession” as a way to understand social, political, and economic inequality by the discipline of anthropology should cause us to examine its explanatory value and to ask whether its application is driven by our own empirical materials. Over the past twenty years, cultural anthropology has had the tendency to draw conceptual abstractions from other disciplines and apply them, often to the exclusion of other possible forms of explanation, to empirical materials from a global range of places and social configurations. This has tended to have a homogenizing effect on the discipline and a generifying effect on our interpretive and descriptive practice.  These talks ask about the usefulness of the analytic abstraction for contemporary anthropology, where it is being used to describe and understand multiple forms of contemporary social and economic inequality. They are based on eighteen years of field-based research on the island of New Guinea.

Paige West is the Tow Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University. She began teaching at Barnard and Columbia in 2001. Since 1997 she has conducted research among indigenous people in Papua New Guinea. The author of four books and many scholarly papers, her broad scholarly interest is the relationship between society and the environment. In 2002 she 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 2008 she founded the journal Environment and Society: Advances in Research, which is published by Berghahn Books, and for which she serves as editor. Professor West is currently the chair of the Association of Social Anthropology in Oceania and the past president of the Anthropology and Environment Section of the American Anthropological Association. In addition to her academic work, she is 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. She is currently on its board of directors.  She is also the volunteer anthropologist for the PNG NGO Ailan Awareness (AA), a marine-conservation NGO.


Reception immediately following each lecture

Lectures are free and open to the public

Herbert Terrace
Professor of Psychology, Columbia University

Robert L. Belknap
Professor Emeritus of Russian, Director Emeritus of The University Seminars, Columbia University

Jean Howard
George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities
Staging History; Imagining the Nation

Philip Kitcher

John Dewey Professor of Philosophy
Deaths in Venice:
The Case(s) of Gustav (von) Aschenbach

Douglas Chalmers

Professor Emeritus of Political Science
Representative Government Without Representatives: Seven Reasons to Think Beyond Electing Executives and Lawmakers

Boris Gasparov

Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature
The Early Romantic Roots of Theoretical Linguistics: Friedrich Shchlegel, Novalis, and Ferdinand De Saussure on Sign and Meaning

Robert W. Hanning

Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Serious Play: Crises of Desire and Authority in the Poetry of Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto

Lesley A. Sharp

Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociomedical Sciences
Bodies, Commodities, Biotechnologies

George Rupp

President, International Rescue Committee
Globilization Challenged: Conviction, Conflict, Community

David Rosand
Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History
The Invention of Painting in America

Partha Chatterjee

Professor of Anthropology
The Politics of the Governed

Lisa Anderson

Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs Professor of Political Science
The Scholar and the Practitioner: Perspectives
on Social Science and Public Policy

Robert Pollack

Professor of Biological Sciences
The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith

Carol Gluck
George Sansom Professor of History
Past Obsessions: War and Memory in the Twentieth Century

Ira Katznelson

Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History Desolation and Enlightenment
Political Knowledge After the Holocaust, Totalitarianism, and Total War

Kenneth T. Jackson
Jacques Barzun Professor of History and the Social Sciences
Gentleman’s Agreement: Political Balkanization and Social Inequality in America

Saskia Sassen

Professor of Urban Planning
Losing Control? Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization

Charles E. Larmore
Professor of Philosophy
The Romantic Legacy

David N. Cannadine
Moore Collegiate Professor of History
The Rise and Fall of Class in Britain, 1700–2000