Melanie Brazzell

Graduate Student


Gender, social movements, race and racism, criminology, violence, critical theory, participatory research


B.A., Columbia University

M.A., Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


As a PhD student and Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of California Santa Barbara, Melanie Brazzell studies gender, critical criminology, and social movements. Melanie’s dissertation focuses on transformative justice alternatives to prison and policing, particularly for gender-based violence. Drawing on their involvement in the feminist anti-violence movement in both the U.S. and Germany for over fifteen years, Melanie’s participatory research and community engagement are housed within the “What Really Makes Us Safe?” Project. Melanie's research on transformative justice was most recently supported by a dissertation fellowship from the Center for Engaged Scholarship. 
Melanie's other strand of social movement research focuses on organizational structure. They were the principal investigator of the "Building Structure Shapes" project through a collaboration with the Realizing Democracy Project and social movement leaders, and continued this work as a pre-doctoral fellow at the SNF Agora Institute's P3 Lab at Johns Hopkins University. Melanie will expand this research agenda as a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University's Bloomberg Center for Cities starting in fall of 2023.
To better understand connections between violence and gender, Melanie has served as a research assistant to Dr. Tristan Bridges and Dr. Tara Tober since 2018, helping to build the most comprehensive existing dataset on mass shootings in the United States. Through this collaboration, Melanie has co-authored articles published in Frontiers in Psychology, Lancet Regional Health - Americas, and Contexts. 
Melanie is passionate about pedagogy, having worked for eight years in Berlin as a teacher at a co-operative, democratic high school for non-traditional adult students, which won the Bosch Foundation’s prize for best schools in Germany in 2016. Melanie received a Bachelor’s from Columbia University and a Master’s from Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.


As Instructor: Social Movements & Networks, Feminism and the State: Carceral Feminisms and Transformative Alternatives, Ethical Foundations of Social Work. As Teaching Assistant: Social Movements, Introduction to Sociology