Born and raised in Los Angeles, Arely Zimmerman earned her B.A. and Ph.D. in political science from UCLA. She currently teaches at Mills College in Oakland, CA.
Zimmerman’s research grounds the production of theory in the interpretation of events, oral histories, and ethnography. Her work engages with questions of justice and pluralism through the critical lens of race, gender, class, sexuality, and legality. Her work is centered on the relationship between the law, identity, social and legal mobilization, and transnational activism. Her book project, Contentious Citizenship: Central Americans’ Political Participation Across Borders, examines how Central American migrants use various strategies of community organizing and social movement participation to claim rights in both the U.S. and their countries of origin. The book examines what consequences these modes of organizing have on participants’ conceptions of political membership, nation, and belonging. Drawing from ethnographic research with Central American transnational communities in Los Angeles and Washington D.C., the book introduces the concept of “contentious citizenship,” which refers to how migrants strategically deploy dominant meanings of membership and nationhood in order to contest exclusionary anti-migrant policies.
Zimmerman also is engaged in research on race, media, and social activism. Drawing from the experiences of undocumented youth activists in using digital and social media to mobilize for immigrants’ rights, Zimmerman has several book chapters and articles in progress that focus on the social impact of communications technologies as well as representations of marginalized populations on digital platforms. She is co-author with Henry Jenkins and a team of researchers of By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Participatory Politics.