My research how parents and communities construct social meaning through their schools.

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.

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. Other current research with Hoi-Shan Cheung examines school choice in Singapore.

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.


       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.