Lilian Mengesha

Lilian Mengesha

Semester Leave
Aidekman Arts Complex
Research/Areas of Interest: Race and performance studies


  • PhD, Brown University, USA, 2018
  • MA, Theater Arts and Performance Studies, Brown University, United States, 2014
  • MS Ed, Education, Hunter College, New York, United States
  • AB, English, Gender and Sexuality Studiesand Political Science, Bryn Mawr College, United States, 2010


Lilian (Lily) Mengesha is the Fletcher Foundation Assistant Professor of Dramatic Literature in the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, and the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora. Her research and teaching live at the intersection of critical Indigenous studies, gender and sexuality studies and performance theory. Her current book project, Critical Dreaming: Performance and Decoloniality in the Americas, argues for dreaming as a critical tool for decolonial practice, particularly in the works of Indigenous-centered and feminist artists throughout North and Central America. Her research seeks to illuminate how artists use their bodies as active, lively agents for documenting legacies of dispossession as well as blueprints for healing and transformation. Continuing her work in decolonial artistic practice, Dr. Mengesha's second book project focuses on the embodied scripts of land, displacement and placelessness emerging throughout the aesthetics of the Habesha diaspora, particularly in the films Loulou Cherinet and the paintings of Julie Mehretu.

She is the co-editor of the 2019 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.

In the 2021-2022 academic year, Dr. Mengesha will be co-collaborating on a New England Humanities Consortium (NEHC) research seminar entitled "Undisciplining Performance" along with fellow performance scholars Christine Mok (URI), AB Brown (Colby College) and Tufts colleague Kareem Khubchandani. In addition to the NEHC award, Dr. Mengesha's research has been supported by various awards, grants and fellowships including the Center for Humanities at Tufts, MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, the American Society for Theatre Research, the Joukowsky Family Foundation, the Cogut Center for the Humanities, the Pembroke Center for the Research and Teaching of Women, the Social Science Research Council and Mellon Mays Foundation.

In addition to her research, Dr. Mengesha works as a director and dramaturge, and collaborates on performance events and installations.