Dr. Erin Mellett

Assistant Professor

(901) 678-2080
(901) 678-2069
313 McCord Hall, Memphis, TN 38152
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Dr. Erin Mellett

About Dr. Mellett

Dr. Mellett is a medical and linguistic anthropologist who joined the Department of Anthropology in the fall of 2023. Dr. Mellett completed her M.S. in Medical Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Practice at Boston University School of Medicine in 2016 and her Ph.D. in anthropology at Brown University in 2023. In dialogue with medical anthropology, linguistic anthropology, disability studies, and migration studies, her dissertation research examines the experiences of deaf immigrants in urban and semi-urban areas of the northeastern United States. Her work focuses on how meanings of deafness are configured and reconfigured transnationally, and the role language plays in shaping deaf immigrants’ experiences of belonging as members of a family, as part of an imagined “Deaf” community, and as citizens of the United States. In her work, Dr. Mellett critiques the ways that systemic forms of discrimination manifest through a fundamentally ableist U.S. naturalization process whose policies and procedures function as mechanisms to exclude those whose bodies and minds diverge from what is considered normative.

Expertise and Interests

Medical anthropology, linguistic anthropology, deaf studies, disability studies, sign language(s), migration, language and social justice, linguistic discrimination, health inequalities, identity and belonging.

Research Projects

I am excited to be developing a new project that builds on my dissertation. While my previous work focused on the challenges deaf individuals encounter as they navigate the U.S. naturalization process, in this next project I will focus on deaf immigrants’ encounters with the U.S. healthcare regime. Multiple and layered language ideologies and ideologies of disability shape deaf immigrants’ interactions with the healthcare system and I seek to document how the intersection of deafness and immigration produces vulnerabilities, but also how multilingual, multimodal, and collaborative deaf languaging practices might interrupt systemic forms of marginalization. I will continue to work with deaf immigrants in the northeast U.S. but will expand my research population to include deaf individuals in Memphis and the surrounding area. I also hope to ethnographically explore the work of Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs) in healthcare settings.

Selected Talks

2022 “’Deaf People Have No Country’: Language & Deaf Immigrant Belonging.” At session Encounters Across Difference. Anthropology Fall Symposium, Brown University. September 16. Providence, Rhode Island.

2020 “Children of Deaf Adults as Third Culture Kids.” Families In Global Transition Research Network, July 24. Recorded live and shared via YouTube.

2019 “Intersections of Deafness and Immigration: Sign Language Interpreting and Language Rights in Healthcare.” At session Inter-generational Conversations at the Intersection of Linguistic and Medical Anthropology. American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, November 22. Vancouver, Canada.

2018 “Deafness and the Language Gap.” At session Language Learning/Language and Learning. American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, November 14. San Jose, CA.

2018 “Deaf Asylum Seekers in the U.S.” At session Deaf Citizenship and Representation. Chicago Disability Studies Conference, April 21. University of Chicago, IL.

Selected Awards

2018-2019 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development T32 Fellowship, Brown University Population Studies Training Center


Anthropology of Global Health (ANTH 3500)

Additional Resources

Learn American Sign Language at the University of Memphis