Mneesha Gellman, Ph.D.

Emerson College

City: Boston, Massachusetts

Country: United States

About Me:

Mneesha Gellman is Assistant Professor of Political Science in the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, at Emerson College, Boston, USA. Her research interests include comparative democratization, cultural resilience, memory politics, and social movements in the Global South and the United States. She is currently focused on a project looking at resistance to culturecide and political, civic, and cultural participation among high school and college-aged students in Oaxaca, Mexico, and northern California. The project examines how access to heritage languages, including indigneous and Native American languages, inform student identity and behavior choices. Gellman is a political ethnographer and also uses mixed methods, including surveys, focus groups, and qualitative interviews in her work.

Research Interests

Comparative Democratization

Human Rights

Latin American And Caribbean Politics

Race, Ethnicity and Politics

Research Methods & Research Design

Political Violence

Memory Politics

Indigenous Politics

Language Politics

Education Policy

Cultural Diversity

Diversity Politics

Countries of Interest


El Salvador


United States

Sierra Leone

My Research:

Gellman's current research looks at how citizens are formed in the formal education sector and in community-run spaces organized around mother tongue and heritage language learning. She is working with stakeholders in Northern California and Mexico on a project that documents cultural resiliency projects among high school-aged youth. This project follows cohorts of students enrolled in indigenous language electives, including Yurok and Zapotec, at local high schools and community organizations in order to document the effects of language learning on student experiences of civic, cultural, and political participation.
Gellman's first book, Democratization and Memories of Violence: Ethnic Minority Social Movements in Mexico, Turkey, and El Salvador (Routledge 2017) examines how ethnic minority communities use memories of violence in mobilizations for cultural rights, particularly the right to mother tongue education. She argues that violence-affected communities use memory-based narratives in order to shame states into cooperating with claims for cultural rights protections, and she shows that shaming and claiming is a social movement tactic that binds historic violence to contemporary citizenship.
Gellman's other work investigates how schools, museums, and memorials serve as spaces that can integrate marginalized memories and identities into mainstream vernaculars. Her 2019 article in the Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies Journal, with co-author Michelle Bellino, looks at formal and informal educational spaces in El Salvador and Guatemala as contested terrain for historical memory and indigenous identity. Her 2015 article in Third World Quarterly looked at the role of peace museums as alternative educational spaces in El Salvador and Sierra Leone. She is currently working on an article that addresses language politics in Sierra Leone, and another on neoliberalism in relation to schooling in Mexico and El Salvador.Gellman is the founder and Director of the Emerson Prison Initiative, which brings Emerson College classes and a BA pathway to incarcerated students in Massachusetts. In this capacity, she works to expand educational access for historically marginalized communities.