Mneesha Gellman

Associate Professor - On Leave
Pronouns: (She/Her/Hers)

Mneesha Gellman's research interests include comparative democratization, cultural resilience, memory politics, and education policy in the Global South and the United States.

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 to develop a project that documents cultural resiliency projects in two indigenous communities. This project addresses identity formation processes for students enrolled in indigenous language electives, including Yurok and Zapotec, at public high schools, colleges, and community organizations in order to assess how language access impacts 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 person of color communities use memories of violence in mobilizations for cultural rights, particularly the right to mother tongue or heritage 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 scholarly work investigates how history education, as well as museums and memorials serve as spaces that can integrate marginalized memories and identities into mainstream vernaculars. She published "Visible yet Invisible: Indigenous Citizens and History in El Salvador and Guatemala" with Michelle Bellino in Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies Journal, which looks at the legacies of political violence in each country in relation to transitional justice 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, and she has also published on women's advocacy efforts in El Salvador and political apology in Turkey.

In her other role, Gellman is the founder and Director of the Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI), which brings high quality liberal arts education to incarcerated students at Massachusetts Correctional Institute (MCI) at Concord, a men's medium security prison. Gellman has worked with stakeholders across the Massachusetts Department of Corrections and Emerson College to build a pathway to an Emerson College Bachelor of Arts in Media, Literature, and Culture for incarcerated students. Please visit EPI's website for more information:

Gellman also informs immigration court proceedings by serving as a pro bono expert witness for asylum hearings regarding conditions of violence in El Salvador, Mexico, and Turkey, where she works to provide specific political contexts of violence experienced by specific groups of people. Prior to joining the faculty at Emerson College, Gellman was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Global Cooperation Research, Käte Hamburger Kolleg, University of Duisburg-Essen, in Duisburg, Germany. She has published in journals such as Democratization, Conflict Resolution Quarterly, Asian Perspective, and Development in Practice, and contributed to encylopedia entries, edited volumes, and book reviews, including for the Latin American Research Review. Gellman holds a PhD in Political Science from Northwestern University, and an MA in International Studies/Peace and Conflict Resolution from the University of Queensland, Australia. She has lived, worked, and studied on six continents, and may skip Antarctica in this lifetime.

At Emerson, many of Gellman's courses are part of the following minors: Political Science, Global and Postcolonial Studies, Peace and Social Justice, and Latin American and LatinX Studies.

She teaches the following courses:

  • IN 154 Power and Privilege
  • IN 213 Introduction to Global Studies
  • PL 222 Human Rights
  • PL 223 The United States and Latin America
  • PL 322 Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation
  • IN 370 Politics and Society of Cuba (study abroad)

(Photo credit: ©KHK/GCR21)


  • Department Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Since 2014


B.A., Bard College
M.A., University of Queensland
Ph.D., Northwestern University


“Landmark femicide case fails to fix El Salvador’s patriarchy”

The Globe Post. 2020. 2/6/20

“Deported to death: US sent 138 Salvadorans home to be killed”


“US will send migrants to El Salvador, a country that can’t protect its own people.”


"The Trump administration keeps making it harder to claim asylum. Here’s how — and why."


“The right to learn our (m)other tongues: indigenous languages and neoliberal citizenship in El Salvador and Mexico”

British Journal of Sociology of Education, 40:4, 2019, 523–537.

“Visible yet Invisible: Indigenous Citizens and History in El Salvador and Guatemala”


Lead co-author, with Michelle Bellino.

Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies Journal. Vol 14:1. 2019, pages 1–23.

Democratization and Memories of Violence: Ethnic Minority Social Movements in Mexico, Turkey, and El Salvador

Routledge, UK. Global Cooperation Series. 2017.

“Only Looking Forward: The Absence of National History in Sierra Leone”

Book chapter in “History Can Bite: History Education in Divided and Post-War Societies. Eds. Denise Bentrovato, Karina V. Korostelina, and Martina Schultze. V&R Unipress, Göttingen. 2016.

“Teaching Silence in the Schoolroom: Whither National History in Sierra Leone and El Salvador?”

Third World Quarterly, 36:1, 2015, pages 147–161.

Global & Civic Engagement

Emerson Prison Initiative


Mneesha Gellman is the founder and Director of the Emerson Prison Initiative, which offers a BA program in Media, Literature, and Culture for incarcerated students at Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Concord, a men's medium security prison:

Awards & Honors

Fulbright U.S. García Robles Scholar, Mexico

January–June 2020

Six-month fellowship, Culture Kids Project

Sociological Initiatives Foundation


Two-year grant for Culture Kids: Cultural Competency and Language Politics project

Spirit of Emerson Award

March 2019

For civic engagement through Emerson Prison Initiative, Emerson College

2018 Alma Ostrom and Leah Hopkins Awan Civic Education Fund

September 2018–December 2019

Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs, American Political Science Association

Norma and Irma Mann Stearns Distinguished Faculty Award

July 2017–June 2018

Emerson College, Language Politics Project