Tufts University  |  School of Arts and Sciences  |  Find People  |  Give  | 



Lilian (Lily) Mengesha
Contact Info:
Tufts University
Dept. of Theatre, Dance,
and Performance Studies
Aidekman 008
40 Talbot Avenue
Tufts University
Medford, MA 02155

Office: 617.627.1199
Email Professor
Lilian Mengesha, PhD
Fletcher Foundation Assistant Professor


Lilian (Lily) Mengesha is assistant professor in the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, with affiliation in the Consortium on Race, Colonialism and Diaspora. Her research and teaching considers the use of theater and performance to address legacies of colonialism across various historical, political and geographic moments and places. She is currently working on a manuscript that theorizes the affective and place-based performance practices among Indigenous feminist performance artists in the North and Central America, particularly works that reimagine and address forms of violence against women from the US/Mexico border to downtown Vancouver, Canada. Importantly, her research illuminates how artists use their bodies as an active, lively agent for documenting legacies of dispossession. Currently, she is co-editing a special issue of Women & Performance entitled "Performing Refusal/Refusing to Perform" that brings together a collection of essays that examine the often subtle and imperceptible embodied forms of racial and ethnic defiance and negation in social, theatrical and political life.

Professor Mengesha's research has been supported by various awards, grants and fellowships including the MIT Pre-Doctoral diversity Fellowship (2016-2017), the American Society for Theatre Research, the Joukowsky Research Award, the Cogut Center for the Humanities, the Pembroke Center for the Research and Teaching of Women, and the Social Science Research Council and Mellon Mays Foundation. In 2016, she won the award for best graduate student essay in The Drama Review for her piece "Defecting Witness: The Difficulty in Watching Regina José Galindo's Perra."

In addition to her research, Dr. Mengesha works as a director and dramaturge, and collaborates on performance events and installations. In 2018, she directed the choreodrama Ashes, by Zoe Flowers with vignettes co-written by Sherri Pullum, at Rites and Reason Theatre in Providence. The show used movement, song, and poetry to explore the diverse stories of women of color across history and place, working through and surviving abuse.

Professor Mengesha holds a PhD in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies from Brown University. She earned her Bachelors of Arts in English and Gender and Sexuality Studies from Bryn Mawr College, a Masters in Education from Hunter College, and a Masters in Performance Studies from Brown University.


"Performing Refusal/Refusing to Perform," Co-editor. Special Issue of Women & Performance. Forthcoming in 2019.

"Where Water Meets Land: Water's Time and Place's Thought in Rebecca Belmore's Fountain," Canadian Theater Review. Spring 2018.

"Defecting Witness: The Difficulty in Watching Regina José Galindo's Perra." The Drama Review. Vol. 61, Issue 1. 2017 (Winner of the 2016 TDR Graduate Student Essay Contest)


"Performance" by Diana Taylor. Latin American Theater Review. 50.2. 2017

"Embodied Avatars: Genealogies of Black Feminist Performance and Aesthetics." Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory. Vol. 27. Issue 1. 10, 2017

"Piedra" by Regina José Galindo, Performance Review. e-misférica 10.2: Dissidence. Ed. Jill Lane andMarcial Godoy-Anativia. New York: New York University. 2013

Public Writing

"Doing Theory/Theorizing Practice: Dancing at the Harvard Mellon School for Theater and Performance Research" HowlRound: A Knowledge Commons By and For the Theatre Community. 2017