My research interests center on the ambiguity of identity. I am a Nicaraguan who grew up in Miami and a Mexican who's never been to Mexico. My "race" and (married) name, "Melissa Nelson", make it comfortable for people to question/overlook my Latin-ness (LatinX? Hispanidad?) And for me, it's always seemed like the little box they give you to list where you're from is never big enough.
Professionally, the question of identity has evolved from my personal vulnerabilities. They say that Anthropologists study what they don't understand. For me, at least, it's true. As a graduate student I researched how a group of Scottish diaspora both re-appropriated and re-created "Scottish Identity" through the kilt. And then I followed a group of Greek women, with a self-proclaimed "foreign mentality", in their claims over being the real Greeks. They argued that as Greek diaspora abroad they preserved their identity outside of Greece, while those in the homeland lost it.
The questions over identity: how you define it, who gets to claim it, and when does it become an issue, are woven throughout my life, my research, and now my teaching. Both in my teaching and advising, I strive to bring complexity to how we see ourselves and others.
Click here to learn more about advising with Professor Nelson.
2012 M.A./ABD Socio-Cultural Anthropology, University of Virginia
2004 M.A. Social Anthropology, The Victoria University of Manchester, U.K.
2001 B.S. Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology, Emory University
Courses Regularly Taught
ANTH 4011 Anthropological Field Methods
ANTH 1150 World Cultures Through Film
Previously Taught Courses
ANTH 4701 Anthropology and Social Media Culture (UNT)
ANTH 4550 Race, Ethnicity, and Identity (UNT)
ANTH 4300 Migrants & Refugees (UNT)
ANTH 3101 American Culture & Society (UNT)
Marriage and the Family (UVa)
American Culture through the TV Sitcom (UVa)
Symbol and Ritual (UVa)
Intermediate Spanish (UVa)
GPS to Grad School (Forthcoming September 2020)
Padawan Society, UNT
Who Am I On Paper?
Roundtable on Personal Statements/Statement of Purpose
Padawan Society, UNT
The Cultural Learning Curve of the Ethnographic Field Researcher
Anthropology TA Workshop Series
Department of Anthropology, UVa
Presentation of a Cross-Cultural Self
Re-Entry Seminar for Study Abroad Students, UVa
PADAWAN Society, Since 2018
Anthropology CLASS Ambassadors, Since 2018
Rusty Conversational Greek
Questions I Do Not Like
Where are you from?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Questions I Do Like
They always start with, "How…?"