Expand AU Menu

Susan Shepler

Associate Professor
School of International Service

  • Dr. Shepler's research interests include youth and conflict, reintegration of former child soldiers, post-conflict reconstruction, refugees, education and economic development, NGOs and globalization, transitional justice, and childhood studies. In addition to her academic work, Dr. Shepler has conducted research for UNICEF, the IRC, and Search for Common Ground. Her work has appeared in The Journal of Modern African Studies, Africa Today, Anthropology Today, and the Journal of Human Rights.  Her book on the reintegration of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone, Childhood Deployed, was published by NYU Press in June 2014.
  • Degrees

    PhD, social and cultural studies in education, University of California, Berkeley
    MA, mathematics, University of California, Berkeley
    BA, mathematics, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Book Currently Reading:

    Searching for Normal in the Wake of the Liberian War by Sharon Abramowitz

  • SIS-School of Intl Service
  • SIS - 209
  • Wednesdays, 3 to 6PM

  • (202) 885-2454 (Office)
  • Send email Profile UserID

  • To request an interview for a
    news story, call AU Communications
    at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.


  • Fall 2015

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Grants and Sponsored Research

  • Spencer Foundation Research Grant, "Education, State Fragility, and Armed Conflict in West Africa"  2013-2014.
  • Fulbright Scholar, Nigeria.  2013-14
  • AU Curriculum Development Grant (research methods instruction), 2009
  • SIS Summer Research Grant, 2007   


Selected Publications

  • “Effects in post-conflict West Africa of teacher training for refugee women.” Co-authored with Sharyn Routh.  Gender and Education. 24(4): 429-441.  July 2012.
  • “Introduction to Special Issue:  Everyday Life in Post-war Sierra Leone.”  Co-authored with Aisha Fofana Ibrahim.  Africa Today.  58(2): v-xii.  December 2011.
  • “The Real and Symbolic Importance of Food in War: Hunger Pains and Big Men’s Bellies in Sierra Leone.” Africa Today. 58(2): 43-56.  December 2011.
  • "Child labour and youth enterprise: Post-war urban infrastructure and the bearing boys of Freetown." Anthropology Today. 26(6): 19-22. December 2010.   
  • "Youth Music and Politics in Postwar Sierra Leone." The Journal of Modern African Studies. 48(4). 627-642. 2010.   
  • "Transnational Fosterage: The Novel Care Arrangements between Guinean Caregivers and Ivorian and Liberian Children Fleeing War" in Everyday Ruptures: Children, Youth, and Migration in Global Perspective. Cati Coe and Rachel Reynolds, Eds. Vanderbilt University Press. 2011.   
  • "Post-war trajectories for girls associated with the fighting forces in Sierra Leone." in  Gender, War, and Militarism. Laura Sjoberg and Sandra Via, Eds. Praeger Security International Series: Santa Barbara. 2010.   
  • "Shifting priorities in child protection in Sierra Leone since Lome" in Sierra Leone Beyond Lome: Challenges and Possibilities for a Post-War Nation, Marda Mustapha and Joseph Bangura, Eds. Palgrave. 2010.   
  • "Are child soldiers in Sierra Leone a new phenomenon?" in The Powerful Presence of the Past: Historical Dimensions of Integration and Conflict in the Upper Guinea Coast , sponsored by the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle Germany. Jacqueline Knorr and Wilson Trajano Filho, Eds. Brill Publishers. 2010.  
  • "Documenting Human Rights Abuses among the Diaspora: Lessons Learned from the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission" (co-authored with Patricia Minikon.) In Human Rights after the Cold War: Assessing Challenges and Opportunities. Noha Shawki and Michaelene Cox, editors. Ashgate Publishers.; 2009.   
  • "The Rites of the Child: Global Discourses of Youth and Reintegrating Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone" Journal of Human Rights, June 2005.  
  • "Globalizing Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone," in Youthscapes: The Popular, The National, The Global, December 2004.   
  • "Educated in War: The Rehabilitation of Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone" in Conflict Resolution and Peace Education in Africa, August 2003.   
  • "Les Filles-Soldats: Trajectoires d'apres-guerre en Sierra Leone" Politique Africaine, December 2002.   
  • "Education as a Site of Political Struggle in Sierra Leone" Antropologicas, 1998.

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • George Arnhold Professor at the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, Braunschweig, Germany.  2014-2015
  • Winner (with Sharyn Routh) of INEE's Jackie Kirk Commemorative Competition 2009.   
  • Outstanding Dissertation in Comparative Education – Gail P. Kelly Award from the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES). 2006.   
  • Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation dissertation year fellowship. 2004.   
  • Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation dissertation fellowship. 2003, 2004.   
  • American Association of University Women, American Dissertation Fellowship. 2003.

Professional Presentations

  • “Who Bears Responsibility for Schooling in Rural Communities in Post-post-conflict Sierra Leone?” Paper presented at Education and the Development of Human Capital:  Outcomes for Equality and Governance in Africa.  Sponsored by the Institute for African Development, Cornell University.  Ithaca, NY.  April 18, 2015.
  • “Education and Extremism in Nigeria:  The Case of Boko Haram.”  Presented at the 2015 Global Education Forum on the theme Extremism and Education.  Washington DC.  March 19, 2015.
  • Roundtable co-organizer (with Douglas Henry, University of North Texas) and participant:  “Averting Chronically Acute Crises:  Bringing Anthropology to and from the Global Ebola Response.” American Anthropological Association meetings.  Washington DC. December 5, 2014.
  • “Shifting notions of the state’s responsibility for rural education in post-post-conflict Sierra Leone.” American Anthropological Association meetings.  Washington DC. December 3, 2014.
  • “Sustainability through ground-up approaches to transitional justice education in Sierra Leone and Liberia” invited presentation at Transitional Justice, Education, and Peacebuilding:  Expert Roundtable. Co-sponsored by the International Center for Transitional Justice and UNICEF.  New York.  October 21-22, 2014. 
  • “Adolescent Youth and Pathways into and out of Violent Extremist Groups.” Countering Violence through Education:  How Schools Can Reduce the Threat.  Invited presentation at course offered at Hedayah in Partnership with the U.S. Institute of Peace.  Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., May 18, 2014. 
  • “How do beneficiaries of peacebuilding programs understand the motivations of donors?: A Nigerian case” presented at International Conference on Philanthropy and Peacebuilding: Classical Approaches and Emerging Trends.  Istanbul, Turkey. April 10-12, 2014.
  • “The Moment Sierra Leone’s TRC Report Became a Useful Political Object” presented at Local Memory, Global Ethics, Justice:  The Politics of Historical Dialogue in Contemporary Society. Sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, New York, NY, December 11-14, 2012.
  • “Child Protection Expertise as a Traveling Model” invited presentation at “Translations of travelling legal, organisational, and technological models in African contexts” part of the international collaborative research project “Travelling Models in Conflict Management.” Dakar, Senegal.  December 12, 2011.
  • “What do we gain and what do we lose by using the child rights framework?” co-presented with Nicole Behnam.  Washington Network on Children and Armed Conflict.  Washington DC.  December 8, 2011.
  • “From Ethnography to Policy:  Reintegration of Former Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone” invited lecture at University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education.  November 21, 2011. 
  • “Linking Education and Violent Conflict:  The Case of Boko Haram,” presented at the annual meeting of the African Studies Association, Washington DC.  November 19, 2011. 
  • “The real and symbolic importance of food in the Sierra Leone war and its aftermath” presented at Food in Zones of Conflict, conference of The International Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition. Leiden, The Netherlands.  August 21, 2011.
  • “Trends in Scholarship on Child Soldiering over the Past Decade,” invited keynote address at the ESRC-sponsored seminar series, Violence and childhood in an international and comparative perspective.  Seminar 5:  Children Affected by War.  University of London, June 30, 2011.
  • “Repatriated refugee teachers in post-conflict Sierra Leone and Liberia,” part of a panel honoring Jackie Kirk, at the Comparative and International Education Society meetings.  Montreal, Canada.  May 2011.
  • “Effects of teacher training for refugee women in West Africa: Fostering agents of change in schools and society.”  Engendering Empowerment:  Education and Equality (E4) Conference, Sponsored by UN Girls’ Education Initiative. Dakar, Senegal.  17 May 2010. 
  • “The Anthropology of Childhood and Comparing Local Contexts” at a Research Seminar on Root Causes of Child Soldiering, hosted by Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children Affected by Armed Conflict.  UN Headquarters, New York City.  10 November 2008.
  • "Trends in Understanding Child Soldiers in Local Contexts.” Policy Forum on Children and Armed Conflict: Child Soldiers as Combatants, Victims, and Survivors.  A public event jointly sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace and the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.  Washington DC, September 17, 2008.
  • "Youth In Post-Conflict Societies: What Are Their Situations And Needs?” at the conference “Healing the War: Psychosocial Experiences and Perspectives,” sponsored by The Psychosocial and Cultural Integration Unit of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Geneva, 10-12 December 2007.
  • “Post-War Trajectories for Girls Associated with the Fighting Forces in Sierra Leone” presented at the conference entitled “Gender, War, and Militarism” at University of Pennsylvania, October 2007. 
  • “Can the Child Soldier Speak?” presented at “Humanitarian Responses to Narratives of Inflicted Suffering” sponsored by the Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut.  October 13-15, 2006.
  •  "The Social and Cultural Context of Child Soldiering in Sierra Leone" presented at a workshop on Techniques of Violence in Civil War, Centre for the Study of Civil War, International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway. August 20, 2004

AU News and Achievements