TED Fellows » TED Fellows Network » Chelsea Strayer

Chelsea Strayer

Cultural anthropologist

Fellows Class:
Chelsea Strayer

Professional Role

Current Titles:

Professor, Activist, Consultant

Current Organizations:

TED, Boston University, Boncom, National ERA Taskforce, Mormons for ERA, LDS WAVE, Ordain Women, Exponent, Feminist Mormon Housewives, etc.


Uploaded Photos

Flickr Photostream


Body Beat

"People often look at alternative medicine as quackery," says Chelsea Strayer (GRS'12), a doctoral candidate in anthropology. "They think it's all in the patient's head and that nothing is actually happening that will benefit the patient." Strayer disagrees. She has worked with the Asante people of Ghana for the past seven years and has found evidence that their healing rituals lower stress levels, allowing the body to become more relaxed. For more Boston University news and videos, check out http://today.bu.edu

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We Are Women Rally 8 18 12

We are Women Rally on the West Lawn of the Capital Building, Washington DC.

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Dissertation: The Evolution and Elicitation of Placebo and Nocebo Effects in Asante Ritual Healing Ceremonies.
? – present
My dissertation is a culmination of over 12 years, 5 different fieldwork experiences and 2 PhD researching the indigenous healing practices of the Asante in Ghana, West Africa. I started out as a cultural anthropologist and spent years observing and participating in Asante ritual healing ceremonies until it crossed my mind that I was only getting one half of the picture. I went back and completed all of the PhD requirements at Boston University for a PhD in both biological and cultural anthropology and went back into the field and collected physiological data. My dissertation is a combination of the theories and methods of both of these fields of inquiry and an example of the evolutionary and proximate mechanisms of mind-body processes in cross-cultural settings.
Project Website »

Religious Gender Inequality
? – present
I was raised in an extremely conservative Mormon family where many aspects of my life (from whom and when I was supposed to marry to whether or not I could work outside the home) was under the direct counsel of male patriarchal leaders. It has taken me over a decade to be able to get out from under these overwhelmingly powerful cultural pressures. Due to this experience, I have dedicated much of my time to organizations and actions that promote greater gender religious equality worldwide. I have become a very well known Mormon feminist activist in the interfaith communities. I am President of Mormons for ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), I spoke at We Are Women Rally on the Capitol in Washington, DC, I helped found LDS WAVE a religious advocacy group and I contribute to articles, blogs and podcasts regularly. In the last year, I participated in actions to allow women to wear pants to church and to allow women to pray in our church-wide General Conference meetings for the first time ever in history! Currently, I am helping to organize the first action to allow women to sit in priesthood meetings on October 5th, 2013. In my life, I still face derision, disciplinary action and estrangement from friends and family because of my actions on gender equality. While my experience as a religious woman in a patriarchal institution is not necessarily unique, I think that my story and experiences are important to share because religions are some of the last institutions on the face of the earth where overt gender discrimination is enforced and acceptable. Much like the actions that forced religious institutions to change their views on God and race 100 years ago, the next fifty years will see enormous changes in how we envision God and women. Most people do not understand the radical nature of this perspective. Most of the 7 billion people on the planet are religious. Religion connects people across national boundaries and asserts more political, economic and human capital than any single country on the earth. From Christianity to Islam, increasing women’s decision making power and authority is the single most important (impacts the greatest amount of women) and critical (religious beliefs underlie some of the worse human rights atrocities) action for women’s rights we can participate in. Furthermore, as we have learned from micro-credit lending, power and money in the hands of women goes directly to families, education, community and health. While women are gaining representation in nations around the world, religions still remain completely male dominated. This issue is so important that a group was organized by Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama called, The Elders, just to try to combat religious gender inequality. This one issue has the potential for solving many of the world’s problems: poverty, human rights abuse, clean water, sanitation, health, education, war and religious strife. The possibilities are unparalleled by anything we have seen in this century. But the work is just beginning. And I am on the front line!
Project Website »


Chelsea is a PhD candidate at Boston University in biological and cultural anthropology studying the evolution and elicitation of placebo and nocebo effects in indigenous ritual healing ceremonies. She particularly focuses on the healing rituals of the Asante in Central Ghana whom she has conducted research with for over a 12 years. Chelsea is also a well known religious gender equality activist in the Mormon community, President of Mormons for ERA, co-founder of LDS WAVE (Women Advocating for Voice and Equality), and active participant in many LDS magazines, blogs, podcasts and conferences. She has participated in two TED events where she had the opportunity to speak about her research and how it applies to the everyday life of all people at both events. Due mainly to her exposure to TED, she has recently been expanding her research skills into the commercial world and is looking forward to collaborations with other TED fellows and participants.