My research how parents and communities construct social meaning through their schools. It can be related to choosing a school in the context of school choice. My research has focused on the multiple framings and contested meanings of a distinctive pedagogy like Montessori, both in the US and globally, or how parents navigate school choice in Singapore and Germany.

This meaning can be constructed around historical memory in relation to nation-building and community-building, and I’ve researched how this operates both in the American South remembering the Civil Rights movement and in India around Gandhi’s assassination and Partition.

A third mode of examining the social meaning of schools is through research examining parents and students working toward school integration and broader social integration/racial justice. Current research with Molly Makris and Elise Castillo examines New York City school integration activists.


Mira Debs, Diverse Families, Desirable Schools: Public Montessori in the Era of School Choice. Harvard Education Press, 2019.

Co-editor, Handbook of Montessori Education, Bloomsbury, UK, forthcoming 2022.


       Sage Prize Finalist for the top 4 Cultural Sociology articles (of 27 published in 2013.)

  • Debs, Mira. 2013. “The Uses of Cultural Trauma: Gandhi’s Assassination, Partition and Secular Nationalism in Post-Independence India,” Nations and Nationalism, 19(4): 635-653.

  • Debs, Mira and Eric Woods. 2013. “Toward a Cultural Sociology of Nationalism” and Co-editor with Eric T. Woods, Special issue on Cultural Sociology for Nations and Nationalism, 19(4): 607-614.