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Chelsea Shields      

Activist, Anthropologist & Consultant

Chelsea Shields is a biocultural anthropologist, a research and strategy consultant, and an outspoken activist for women's rights.

Shields has over a decade of research experience in populations at home and around the world. She's also a strategist with broad training in user experience, brand strategy, social media and human behavior. As an activist, she focuses mostly on issues affecting women and women of color, particularly religious gender inequality, and she has been a co-founder or leader of several Mormon-focused women’s rights movements such as LDSWAVE: Women Advocating for Voice and Equality, Ordain Women, Mormons for ERA and The Mormon Women's Roundtable. A regular guest on podcasts, at conferences, and as a commentator and a contributor in the 2015 book Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, Chelsea is changing the way we think about gender roles in religion.

Shields is best known for her activism to combat religious gender inequality – specifically in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon Church) in which she was raised, though she is currently inactive and is no longer a believer in Mormon doctrine or scripture. Shields delivered a TED Talk on the topic of Religious Gender Inequality at the TED Fellows Retreat in September 2015. In November 2015, the talk was featured on under the title, "How I'm Working for Change Inside My Church."

Shields is also on the board of the Sunstone Education Foundation, an organization that discusses Mormonism through scholarship, art, short fiction, and poetry.

Shields’ academic work focuses on the concept of social susceptibility or why human bodies have evolved to be susceptible to social manipulation. She has spent 26 months over the course of a decade in the field in West Africa researching Asante indigenous healers,[20] ritual ceremonies, and biocultural interactions. Shields argued that grounding human behavior in social adaptations and viewing biocultural interactions in sickness and healing from an evolutionary perspective reveals important discoveries in placebo and ritual studies, religion, pain, stress, emotions, empathy, and social inequality. Shields spoke about how these sociocultural, biological and evolutionary concepts clash in a TED talk at the 2013 TED Fellows Retreat in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, where she used an Asante ethnographic case study of bonesetting to elucidate socially mediating pain mechanisms.

Shields was originally a cultural anthropologist and extended her studies to include a PhD in biological anthropology in order to explain the proximate and ultimate mechanisms of what was happening during ritual healing ceremonies.

Speech Topics

  • Evolutionary Medicine
  • Social Susceptibility
  • Placebo and Nocebo Studies
  • Pain
  • Stress
  • Coping Mechanisms
  • Why Belonging Matters
  • Evolution, Religion, and Health
  • Evolutionary Psychology of Religion
  • The Social Truth of Religion
  • Religious Gender Inequality
  • Mormon Women's History, Resistance, and Activism
  • Person-Centered & Evidence Based Research & Design


Chelsea Shields is a Mormon feminist - Tech Insider

Sep 7, 2015 ... The morning of her TED talk, Chelsea Shields zipped around the parking lot of the Sunset Center in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California, wearing ...

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