Mneesha Gellman's research interests include comparative democratization, cultural resilience, memory and violence politics, and education policy in the Global South and the United States.
Gellman's second monograph, Indigenous Language Politics in the Schoolroom: Cultural Survival in Mexico and the United States, looks at how heritage language learning operates in high schools as a tool for young people to resist culturecide—the intentional killing of culture. She uses collaborative methodology to work with Indigenous community stakeholders in far Northern California and southern Mexico to document, via interviews, focus groups, surveys, and observations, the impact of culturally conscious curricula in formal education. The book addresses identity formation processes for students enrolled in Yurok and Zapotec language classes in order to assess how language politics impacts student experiences of civic, cultural, and political participation.
Gellman's first monograph, Democratization and Memories of Violence: Ethnic Minority Social Movements in Mexico, Turkey, and El Salvador (Routledge 2017) examines how some 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 has published widely on issues of human rights, democratization, education, and methodology in journals such as PS: Political Science and Politics, the British Journal of Sociology of Education, Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, and Democratization.
Gellman is also the founder and Director of the Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI), which makes college available to incarcerated students at Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI) at Concord, a men's medium security prison. Gellman works with the Massachusetts Department of Correction, Emerson College, and other partners to bring an Emerson College Bachelor of Arts in Media, Literature, and Culture to incarcerated students. She is the editor of Education Behind the Wall: Why and How We Teach in Prison (Brandeis University Press 2022) and co-editor of Unlocking Potential: Education in Prison Around the World (Brandeis University Press 2024, forthcoming).
Gellman serves as an expert witness for asylum hearings in US immigration courts regarding country conditions and violence in El Salvador and Mexico. She is the Vice President of the Human Rights Section of the American Political Science Association (2022023) and will serve as Section President in 2023-24. Gellman is a former US Fulbright Scholar in Mexico, a former Rotary World Peace Fellow, and is the Senior Fellow at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Media in Braunschweig, Germany in 2022. 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.
Gellman holds a PhD in political science from Northwestern University, an MA in international studies/peace and conflict resolution from the University of Queensland, Australia, and a BA in political studies from Bard College. She has lived, worked, and studied on six continents, and may skip Antarctica in this lifetime.
At Emerson, 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:
- PL 222 Human Rights
- PL 223 The United States and Latin America
- PL 322 Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation
- PL 310 Collective Action and Identity Politics
(Photo credit: ©KHK/GCR21)
- Department Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies
- Since 2014
M.A., University of Queensland
Ph.D., Northwestern University
Areas of Expertise
- Human Rights
- Intercultural Studies
- International Politics
- Latin American Politics
- Political Science
- Post-Conflict Reconstruction
- Postcolonial Studies
- Research Methodology
Indigenous Language Politics in the Schoolroom: Cultural Survival in Mexico and the United States2022
Available at: https://www.pennpress.org/9780812254044/indigenous-language-politics-in-the-schoolroom/
University of Pennsylvania Press. 2022.
“Unsettling Settler Colonialism in Words and Land: A Case Study of far Northern California.”2022
Available at: https://ijcis.qut.edu.au/article/view/2322/1223
The International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, 15(1), 22-40.
“No nos importaba a nadie”: navegando en la búsqueda del éxito académico en Oaxaca, México2021
Available at: https://polis.ulagos.cl/index.php/polis/article/view/1588/2822
Polis: Revista Latinoamericana. 20(59), 59-78.
“Collaborative Methodology with Indigenous Communities: A Framework for Addressing Power Inequalities.”2021
PS: Political Science and Politics. 54(3), 535-538.
“Landmark femicide case fails to fix El Salvador’s patriarchy”2020
“Deported to death: US sent 138 Salvadorans home to be killed”2020
Available at: https://theconversation.com/
“US will send migrants to El Salvador, a country that can’t protect its own people.”2019
Available at: https://theconversation.com/
"The Trump administration keeps making it harder to claim asylum. Here’s how — and why."2019
Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.
“The right to learn our (m)other tongues: indigenous languages and neoliberal citizenship in El Salvador and Mexico”2019
“Visible yet Invisible: Indigenous Citizens and History in El Salvador and Guatemala”2019
Lead co-author, with Michelle Bellino.
Democratization and Memories of Violence: Ethnic Minority Social Movements in Mexico, Turkey, and El Salvador2017
“Only Looking Forward: The Absence of National History in Sierra Leone”2016
“Teaching Silence in the Schoolroom: Whither National History in Sierra Leone and El Salvador?”2015
Global & Civic Engagement
Emerson Prison Initiative2016
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: epi.emerson.edu.
Awards & Honors
Leibniz Institute for Educational Media, Germany
Fulbright U.S. García Robles Scholar, Mexico2020
Six-month fellowship, Culture Kids Project
Sociological Initiatives Foundation2019
Two-year grant for Culture Kids: Cultural Competency and Language Politics project
Spirit of Emerson Award2019
For civic engagement through Emerson Prison Initiative, Emerson College
2018 Alma Ostrom and Leah Hopkins Awan Civic Education Fund2018
Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs, American Political Science Association
Norma and Irma Mann Stearns Distinguished Faculty Award2017
Emerson College, Language Politics Project