Research is focused on linguistic and cognitive learning that takes place through means such as apprenticeship, mentoring, organizational management, and financial planning that depend on observing, listening, and modeling that goes beyond verbal instruction. Current research involves innovative means of enabling young artists who want to be community organizational leaders to have opportunities to advance their own work as artists while also studying nonprofit management and finance. This work is international and includes young people as members of the research team.

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Linguistic anthropologist Shirley Brice Heath is interested in learning environments outside of teacher-led classroom instruction. Heath recently retired as the Margery Bailey Professor of English and Dramatic Literature at Stanford University and will join Brown as a professor-at-large for a three-year term. She specializes in oral and written language, youth development, race relations and organizational learning.

Since 1987, Heath's primary research has been with young people in under-resourced neighborhoods who learn entrepreneurial and community-building skills as they help create and sustain positive learning environments that contribute local cultural and economic resources. She is widely known for her work with young people in the townships of Johannesburg, South Africa, and with economically disadvantaged communities of the United States. She is particularly interested in documenting organizational structures and communication practices that surround everyday learning and progression in complex task achievement. One product of Heath's research, a documentary video ArtShow, describes four youth-based arts organizations in this country and details the ways in which young people defy the public perception of youth as vulnerable, apathetic, and disengaged from productive challenge. Since its release in 1999, the documentary has been screened at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and locations in London and Stockholm. Additional screenings are scheduled in Chicago and New York.

Heath is also the author of the prize-winning book Ways with Words: Language, Life, and Work in Communities and Classrooms and co-editor of Identity and Inner-City Youth: Beyond Ethnicity and Gender, as well as several other books and more than 100 articles and book chapters. She teaches courses in English, linguistics and anthropology.

Heath received her doctorate in linguistic anthropology and Latin American studies from Columbia University and was a member of the Stanford faculty for more than 20 years.

Curricum Vitae

Download Shirley Brice Heath's Curriculum Vitae in PDF Format


Shirley Brice Heath's Brown Research URL:

Collaborators at other institutions:
Shelby Wolf, University of Colorado
Anna Cutler, Tate Modern, London
Brian Street, Kings College, University of London
Audrey Grant, LaTrobe University, Melbourne, Australia
James Flood and Diane Lapp, San Diego State University
Lianne Fisman, MIT

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