Toni Shapiro-Phim

Associate Professor, Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation
Brandeis University
Waltham, Massachusetts

I'm a cultural anthropologist and dance ethnologist whose work has focused on the relationship between the arts and migration, violence (including war and genocide) and other oppressions. I have spent time with artists and ritual specialists in the midst of and in the aftermath of mass violence, documenting and supporting efforts to bring safety, dignity and beauty to their communities, and, at times, to bring some kind of redress.

Most recently I wrote a piece for the International Journal of Transitional Justice, highlighting a reparations project of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The centerpiece of the project was a performance created in a valued mode of expression in Cambodia: classical dance. The dance drama shares stories of survivors of the Khmer Rouge's "forced marriage" practice.

My PhD in cultural anthropology is from Cornell University. I have held teaching and research appointments at the University of California, Berkeley,; Yale University; and Bryn Mawr College, and worked in Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese refugee camps in Indonesia and Thailand. I also conducted years of ethnographic research in Cambodia.

I am currently associate professor of Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation at Brandeis University, where I also serve as assistant director of the university's global Peacebuilding and the Arts initiative. Prior to joining the staff of Brandeis, I was director of programs at the Philadelphia Folklore Project — a nonprofit arts and social justice organization — where I conducted ethnographic research, curated exhibitions and produced performances, humanities forums and publications highlighting aspects of the cultural practices of Philadelphia's diverse communities. My documentary film Because of the War, in which four Liberian women share how they've harnessed the potency of song and dance to address war and exile and their legacies, premiered in 2018.

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