New Faculty Researcher Spotlight

Emmy-nominated documentary film producer, Wellman, joins Political Science Department

Dr. Elizabeth Iams Wellman recently joined the University of Memphis as an assistant professor in Comparative Politics at the Department of Political Science. Wellman does research exploring how international migration is reshaping electoral politics and citizenship, particularly in the Global South.

Prior to Memphis, Wellman was a assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Williams College and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University. She also holds research affiliations with the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and the Mobility Governance Lab at the University of Oxford.

From 2001 to 2008, Wellman worked as a documentary film producer and advocacy coordinator. These projects addressed a range of social and political issues throughout the United States and around the world, including Barbados, East Timor, Peru, South Africa, Thailand, and Ukraine. In addition to conducting interviews, archival research, and camerawork, she wrote grants, managed budgets, coordinated national and international field productions, acquired archival elements, cleared rights, and developed outreach and education campaigns. She served as co-producer of the Emmy-nominated 2008 documentary film “In the Family,” which explores the emotional impact of genetic testing for mutations related to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer; the documentary was broadcast on PBS and internationally, screened at numerous film festivals and medical schools, and shown during Congressional Hearings and a landmark Supreme Court case on genetic patenting. Wellman also worked as the director of research on the documentary “Confronting the Truth” (2007) which examines truth and reconciliation commissions in South Africa, East Timor, Morocco and Peru, as well as “Orange Revolution” (2006)  documenting the successful non-violent political movement in Ukraine after fraudulent elections in 2004.

Since 2021 she serves on the Board of Directors of Kartemquin Films, the production company behind “In the Family” and dozens of social issue documentary films, including “Hoop Dreams” and “Minding the Gap.” Sparking democracy through documentary since 1966, Kartemquin is a collaborative community that empowers documentary makers to create stories that foster a more engaged and just society.

Wellman’s current research endeavors include a multi-university study on urban migration in Africa that surveyed 1600 people in Johannesburg, Nairobi, and Accra in the spring of 2021. The sample was a third international migrants, a third domestic migrants, and "natives" of urban neighborhoods. She is currently writing a study comparing political engagement of the respondents which she will present at the Southern Political Science Association (SPSA) Conference in New Orleans in January. The article has also been invited to be part of a special issue on political change in African cities. She is also working on a book manuscript “Voting Beyond Borders: The Politics of Diaspora Enfranchisement in Africa” as well as a number of surveys and field experiments related to transnational voting. Wellman plans to take a fieldwork trip to Ghana in the Spring to support these research projects.

The University of Memphis is proud of talented faculty members like Beth and the impactful research they conduct as we expand our research enterprise.

If you are interested in learning more about Wellman’s research, please see her website, or contact her via e-mail at elizabeth.wellman@memphis.edu.