Mneesha Gellman, Ph.D.

Alumni Postdoc Fellow

Research Project at the Centre

Shaming and Claiming: Ethnic Minority Social Movements in Mexico, Turkey, and El Salvador

Mneesha Gellman’s research examines variation in ethnic minority mobilizations for cultural rights. She asks the question; how, why, and under what conditions do ethnic minority communities advocate for increased cultural rights from their states? Despite many common characteristics—such as democratizing political regimes and legacies of state and paramilitary persecution—ethnic minority groups in Mexico, Turkey, and El Salvador make cultural rights demands on their states to different degrees and in different ways. Gellman’s research demonstrates that highly mobilized communities, those that visibly and vocally demand state recognition and funding for minority cultural projects, generally use narratives about historic violence to instrumentally press their cases, and experience less political, economic, and cultural accommodation by their states. As a result, some communities use more extra-institutional rather than institutional claim-making tactics. By contrast, less mobilized communities produce weaker narratives about past violence, sometimes enjoy higher degrees of state accommodation, and tend to use institutional channels for claim-making. In sum, the interaction between narratives of violence and state accommodation shapes mobilization patterns. The project seeks to contribute to an understanding of democratization as a dynamic process that includes memory and narratives as integral to political behavior choices in social movements.


April – December 2014