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Educational qualification BA, Anthropology and East Asian Studies, Davidson College
MA, Anthropology of Chinese Societies, CUHK
MPhil, Anthropology, CUHK
PhD, Anthropology, Columbia University


Prof. Matthew WEST is an economic and legal anthropologist enculturated into an anthropological worldview at Davidson College, CUHK, and Columbia University. He is broadly interested in phenomena at the intersections of the legal and the economic as sites to further our critical understanding of globalization’s unequal circulations of knowledge, people, and things. His research has focused geographically on Sinophone societies—on Taiwan and China in particular—as understood in the context of their ubiquitous transnational connections to other places and peoples in East Asia and around the globe. Topically, his research centers on understanding practices around intellectual property, scientific and engineering knowledge, and the “creative industries” through participant observation fieldwork and other tools of ethnographic research. Prof. West is currently writing about his fieldwork on the production of patents (that is, of property in knowledge) in the Taiwanese LED industry and has previously worked on cultural conceptions of music and movie “piracy” in Xi’an, China. His work has been supported and recognized by international research foundations like the United States National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Chiang Ching Kuo Foundation, and the D. Kim Foundation for the History of Science and Technology in East Asia. After receiving his PhD from Columbia University’s Department of Anthropology in 2015, Prof. West joined CUHK’s full-time faculty in the Fall of 2016.

Research interests

Economic and Legal Anthropology; Anthropology of Science and Technology; Globalization and Inequality; Creativity, Copying, and the Knowledge Economy; Patents, Copyright, Property, and Piracy; Infrastructures of Commodity Circulation; Green Capitalism and the Environment; Media and Technology; Cyberspace and New Digital Worlds; Materiality and Thing Theory; Peircean Semiotics; Anthropological Theory and Qualitative Methods; China; Hong Kong; and Taiwan.

Geographical areas of research

Taiwan, China, Hong Kong

Courses taught

ANTH 1010/ UGEC 1681: Humans and Culture

ANTH 2110 Anthropological Theory

ANTH 2540/ UGE 2665: Cultures of Cyberspace

ANTH 6010 Seminars in Anthropological Theory

Current research

Prof. West is currently working on a book manuscript based on his doctoral dissertation, “Intellectual Property and the Knowledge Economy’s Global Division of Labor: Producing Taiwanese Green-Technology between the United States and China.”

Selected Publications
In Preparation
  “Narrative, Networks, and Materiality: Anthropologies of Knowledge from Taiwan’s Knowledge Economy.”
  “Translating Knowledge into Property: Written Descriptions, Patent Semiotics, and the Occlusion of the Patent Engineer.”
Book chapters and journal articles
2009 (Co-authored with Joseph Bosco and Huwy-min Liu) “Underground Lotteries in China: The Occult Economy and Capitalist Culture,” In Research in Economic Anthropology Series, Vol. 29, Donald C. Wood ed., Pp. 31-62. Bingley, United Kingdom: Emerald Group Publishing.
2008 “Cultural Conceptions of Disc Piracy in China: Structural Constraints and Local Level Policy Implementation.” In Sustaining a Resilient Asian Pacific Community. Wilmar Salim and Kiran Sagoo eds., Pp. 75-90. Newcastle, United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
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