Mneesha Gellman


Performing political ethnographic work undergirds the fundamental premise of my research, that stories are meaningful vehicles for people to integrate personal identity with political objectives. Political ethnography has the potential to address some of the problems that plague conventional social science research methods by explicitly theorizing power within the encounters between researchers and the researched. At the same time, as long as social science methods try to lay claim to “Truth” rather than “truths,” we may continue to find discord in political science as a field.

Collaborative methodology: My new project entails an explicit methodological commitment to do research that will be of use to those who benefit in it, in some cases directly and in other cases indirectly. Much social science research has been performed at the expense of, rather than to the benefit of, the people whose lives are being documented. This approach attempts to change the paradigm of conventional information extraction from marginalized communities for scholarly benefit and instead engage people as actors with agency, rather than objects of research. In short, this means that stakeholders—people affected by the research puzzle itself—have been invited to participate in multiple levels of concept formation, rather than exclusively as data contributors, and will be reported back to at multiple stages of the project.

I also do comparative social science research in secondary literatures, as well as focus groups and surveys. Each of these methods brings a unique angle of analysis to questions about identity, culture, and political particiation.