Shelby Carpenter

photo of Shelby  Carpenter
Shelby Carpenter, Ph.D.Adjunct Professor

Contact Information

(401) 254-3439scarpenter@rwu.eduCAS 130A


Ph.D., Sociocultural Anthropology, Boston University
B.A., Anthropology & Sociology and French, Lafayette College

Dr. Shelby E. Carpenter is a sociocultural and symbolic anthropologist whose research interests include war and post-conflict reconciliation, refugees, economic development and human rights, social networks, and performance.  Topics of her research, teaching, and writing have included legal and medical anthropology; gender studies; popular culture in Africa; the development of trust post-conflict; and social and economic inequalities.

She has conducted most of her field research in West Africa (especially among Krio speakers in  Sierra Leone and Mandinka speakers in the Gambia for her doctoral studies; and among the Bamana speakers in Mali and Guinea).  She has also carried out research in northern France, Morocco, and among migrant populations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem while a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Africa Research Unit at The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace. 

Dr. Carpenter has served in international development as a Small Economic Development agent in the U.S. Peace Corps in Mali (1997-1999), and as a School Feeding Program Coordinator in the U.N. World Food Program in Guinea (2000).

She has taught in the African Studies Center and Anthropology Department at Boston University, and in the Masters Program in Glocal Community Development Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.  She currently enjoys teaching anthropology to students at Roger Williams University because of their respect and enthusiasm for learning about global inequalities and diverse cultures. 

A former Foreign Languages and Areas Studies (FLAS) Fellow, Dr. Carpenter has been the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Fulbright-Hays Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Mellon-MIT Foundation, and Harvard University.  She held a junior visiting fellowship at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria.

Selected Articles and Presentations:

The Transformative Power of Ogun: Performance, Music and Spirituality (paper) New York African(a) Studies Association, The City College (CUNY) and Columbia University (April 2016).

Work in progress: “Networks of Trust in Post-Conflict Spaces: The Paradox of Urban Hunters in Sierra Leone” (book-length manuscript).

“Doing Anthropology” in Post-Conflict Spaces in West Africa (paper) Haunting Memories – Unsettled Pasts and Disputed Spaces Conference, University of Stirling, Scotland (May, 2012).

“The Problem of Belonging in Israel/Palestine and Sierra Leone” and “Trust Building in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone,” in Institute for Human Sciences, Vol. XVIII (January 2011).

“Remembering the Homeland: Sierra Leonean Refugees in Urban Gambia,” in The Inter-University Committee on International Migration, MIT-Mellon Reports (February 2011).

“War, Famine, and Slavery in Africa: Gaining Perspectives from Women’s Narratives,” in special Africa edition Korean Women, Sookmyung Women’s University Press (June 2003).

Courses Taught:

ANTH 380 Culture Change and Development
ANTH 300 Reading Ethnographies
ANTH 430 Special Topics in Anthropology “The Anthropology of Trust”
ANTH 356 World Cultures
ANTH 100 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
CORE 103 Human Behavior in Perspective


African Studies Association
American Anthropological Association
Mande Studies Association