Melissa Nelson | Department of Anthropology

Melissa Nelson

Undergraduate Advisor, Adjunct Instructor
(940) 369-8449
Sycamore Hall 120

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)

Workshops Facilitated

Undergraduate Research Fellowship Information Session
Padawan Society, UNT

Peace Corps Workshop
Padawan Society, UNT

GPS to Grad School
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

Faculty Mentor

PADAWAN Society, Since 2018

Anthropology CLASS Ambassadors, Since 2018

Languages Spoken



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…?"

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