Dr Victoria Phillips specializes in Cold War history, United States cultural diplomacy, and international relations. Her book with Oxford University Press, Martha Graham’s Cold War: The Dance of American Diplomacy (2020), explores the export of modern dance as American soft power to over twenty-five contested nations between 1955 and 1989. Her articles have appeared in publications from the New York Times and American Communist History, to Ballet News and Dance Research Journal. In 2006 she curated “Dance is a Weapon” in Paris and it toured France for two years. At the Library of Congress she co-curated “Politics and the Dancing Body” as well as an exhibit commemorating the 75th anniversary of American Ballet Theatre. She serves on the editorial board for American Communist History and Dance Chronicle. Phillips created and directs the Cold War Archival Research Project (CWAR), which takes advanced undergraduate, M.A. and Ph.D. students to archives in the United States and Europe in order to develop new scholarship on the cultural Cold War. At the London School of Economics, she will be coordinating a project on history, culture and diplomacy. Her papers are held at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Growing up in New York City, Phillips studied ballet, modern, and French baroque dance as a child, and became a professional dancer at the age of twelve touring with Wendy Hilton and performing on stage and television as Queen Esther with Anna Sokolow. She studied with Martha Graham and learned the company repertory before retiring to attend college full-time at Columbia University. While working at the Columbia Business School, she received her degree in literature and writing in 1985. She entered the Business School the following year, and became a summer intern at Mitsui Bank in Tokyo, Japan, where she was first published in Grant’s Interest Rate Observer. Upon returning to the United States, she took a job as a hedge fund manager buying and selling distressed debt securities, or as a “vulture capitalist.” Developing an expertise in short-selling, she transferred to the equities side, retiring in 1993 to raise her three children. As a “stay at home mother,” she received her M.F.A. in creative writing and an M.A. in History and Performance Studies from New York University, before receiving her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2013. Her creative writing was published by journals in the United States and Italy. A chapter of her M.A. Thesis, “Collaboration Among Divas,” was published by Ballet Review.
Phillips wrote her M.A. thesis at Columbia University on the Soviet influence on American modern dance and the arts during the interwar, published by American Communist History. While she planned to explore the artistic influence of Soviet, Nazi, and Fascist propaganda on United States government programs and its intelligentsia, the previously sealed archives of Martha Graham opened. Having remembered Graham’s stance as an a-political artist, Phillips changed her dissertation topic upon finding a myriad of government reports, invitations, and other correspondence with Graham. Over a decade later, the discovery led to numerous oral histories and archival searches in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, her dissertation, and the publication of her book.
While a Ph.D. student, Phillips developed her course on United States cultural diplomacy as a University Teaching Fellow. Her course mantra for students: “Tell me something I did not know.” Her further work with Alan Brinkley in United States History and Carol Gluck and the Weatherhead Institute led to her appointment as a Lecturer at the European Institute under Victoria de Grazia upon graduation in 2013. At the European Institute with de Grazia between 2013 and 2020, and as Associated Faculty at the Harriman Institute, a Cultural Initiative in studies of soft power led to conferences and the development of three of Phillips’ courses, one of which directly addresses the intersection of hard and soft power. Through the CWAR program, Phillips collaborates with West Point Military Academy and its Civil Military Institute, as well as Corvinus University in Budapest. After heeding the advice of Alan Brinkley, “When you don’t understand something, write a syllabus,” Phillips developed her course “Women as Cold War Weapons.” Phillips hopes to teach an extension of this course examining women and the conservative tradition in the Cold War at the London School of Economics as a ten-week seminar in 2021.
Her new book focuses on diplomat Eleanor Lansing Dulles, the sister of John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Allen Dulles, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and her work in Berlin between 1952 and 1961. Other interests include Ambassador Clare Booth Luce and First Lady and Republican Betty Ford – particularly her pro-Equal Rights, pro-abortion efforts, as well as her personal revelations of breast cancer and substance abuse. Phillips is working with the Berkeley University Center for Right-Wing Studies on the history of right-wing conservative women in the United States. In addition, Philips continues to explore United States global cultural projects in the Cold War from the radios to bubble gum trading cards, and CIA projects of strategy and tactics that involve film, books, balloon leaflet campaigns, and other exports. She is a member of several working groups on international biography and Cold War liberalism.
Phillips currently sits on the boards of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the European Institute, Columbia University, and the British Society of Dance History Scholars. At the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations, she is Chair of the Task Force on Freely Available Digitized Research Collections.
Upcoming events featuring Dr Victoria Phillips.
Other titles: Co-cordinator of LSE-Columbia University Double Degree Dissertations (HY458)