Mneesha Gellman

Associate Professor

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 ethnic minority 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:

IN154 Power and Privilege

IN213 Introduction to Global Studies

PL222 Human Rights

PL223 The United States and Latin America

PL322 Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation

IN370 Politics and Society of Cuba (study abroad)

(Photo credit: ©KHK/GCR21)


  • Institute For Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies
    Since 2014


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


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


Global & Civic Engagement

Mneesha Gellman is the Director of the Emerson Prison Initiative, which is beginning to establish college-level educational programming at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord, in collaboration with the Bard Prison Initiative.