Noelle Brigden, Ph.D.

Noelle Brigden
Noelle Brigden, Ph.D.Marquette University

Wehr Physics Hall, 446

MilwaukeeWI53201United States of America
(414) 288-1799

Associate Professor

Political Science

Noelle Brigden, Ph.D. (Cornell 2013) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Marquette University, where she teaches courses on international relations, human security, international migration, and politics of street gangs. She was a 2018-2019 Visiting Research Fellow at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, and held a 2013-2014 postdoctoral fellowship at the Watson Institute for International Studies. Her book, The Migrant Passage: Clandestine Journeys from Central America (Cornell University Press 2018) explores violence and survival strategies along Central American migratory routes crossing Mexico, and their implications for the nation-state. It won the 2019 Yale Ferguson Award from ISA-NE. Her work has also been published in International Studies Quarterly, International Studies Review, Mobilities, Antipode, Migration Studies, International Journal for Migration and Border Studies, Geopolitics, and forthcoming in International Studies Perspectives.

Prof. Brigden is also working to launch a community engaged project. Dr. Brigden founded a small public gym in a neighborhood on the outskirts of San Salvador, where she had been conducting research on the boundaries between street gangs. This gym has recently become a non-profit called Pesas y Poder, which promotes gender equity, community empowerment, and healing from trauma through the practice of strength sports in El Salvador.  See

To serve this purpose, Pesas y Poder develops and delivers fitness and leadership curriculum to Salvadoran people of all genders and ages. We provide powerlifting instruction at a community gym for marginalized neighborhoods on the outskirts of San Salvador. These neighborhoods confront extraordinary gang and police violence, domestic violence, poverty and social stigmatization. These challenges have contributed to sedentary lifestyles, which are implicated in high rates of diabetes, and many locals express their struggles living with body fat. Understanding the intimate links between public health and empowerment, the program subverts entrenched gender norms, revaluing women’s bodies as a source of physical strength, and also offering men a safe space to express their own vulnerabilities. Men are often the victims of gang and police violence, while Salvadoran women are more likely to die of diabetes than bullets. Men and women train together, learning from one another in a teambuilding environment that rewards community resilience. The program aspires to create a gym space of affirmation and acceptance, rather than body shaming or discipline. In this way, the Pesas y Poder program addresses trauma, while confronting the larger power structures that shape our opportunities for fitness. In summary, Pesas y Poder is a research-informed, public health engagement project that uses athletic practice to fulfill a feminist social justice mission.



Ph.D., Cornell University

Courses Taught

  • POSC 2601 International Politics
  • POSC 2601 International Politics (honors)
  • POSC 4633 Human Security
  • POSC 4931 Topics: The Politics of International Migration
  • POSC 6601 International Politics
  • POSC 3101 Global Politics of Street Gangs

Research Interests

Prof Brigden researches the social imagination of borders and the social imagination of the gendered body. A concern with how violence can be worn on the body and how borders come to be embodied in daily practice links these divergent research interests. She also writes extensively about research ethics, fieldwork on violence, and ethnographic methods in the study of international relations. Thus, her work self-consciously links global patterns of politics with power-dynamics at the local level, seeking to understand embodied forms of mobility and resistance.



  • The Migrant Passage: Clandestine Journeys from Central America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2018. 


  •  ‘Subversive Knowledge in Times of Global Political Crisis: A Manifesto for Ethnography in the Study of International Relations’ International Studies Perspectives (co-authored with Cetta Mainwaring), forthcoming. 

  • ‘The Politics of Data Access in Studying Violence Across Methodological Boundaries: What We Can Learn from Each Other?’(co-authored with Anita Gohdes) International Studies Review (2020)

  • ‘Time and Power in a Violent Moment: Re-Imagining Fieldwork as Transformation’ (co-authored with Miranda Cady Hallett) Geopolitics (2020).

  • "From La Monjita to La Hormiga: Gender, Body and Power in Fieldwork," Geopolitics (2019).  
  • "Underground Railroads and Coyote Conductors: Brokering Clandestine Passages, Then and Now," International Journal of Migration and Border Studies.
  • "A Visible Geography of Invisible Journeys: Information, Representation and the Politics of Survival along the Migrant Trail from Central America," International Journal of Migration and Border Studies.
  • "Gender Mobility: Survival Plays and Performing Ethnography with Central American Migrants in Passage," Mobilities.
  • 'Beyond Borders: Clandestine Migration Journeys’ (co-authored with Cetta Mainwaring) Geopolitics. V. 21, n.2: 243-262.
  • ‘Matryoshka Journeys: Im/mobility during Migration’(co-authored with Cetta Mainwaring) Geopolitics, v.21, n.2: 407-434.
  • ‘Improvised Transnationalism: Clandestine Migration at the Border of Anthropology and International Relations’ International Studies Quarterly.
  •  ‘Homeland Heroes: Migrants and Soldiers in the Neoliberal Era’ (co-authored with Wendy A. Vogt) Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, v. 47, n. 2 (March): 303-322.
  • ‘Transnational Journeys and the Limits of Hometown Resources: Salvadoran Migration in Uncertain Times’ Migration Studies: 1-19.
  • ‘Padre Jose Alejandro Solalinde Guerra’s Understanding of Ultimate Reality and Meaning’ (co-authored with Mary Kate Naatus), Ultimate Reality and Meaning: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Philosophy of Understanding, v.33, n.3-4 2010: 235-254.

 Book Chapters

  • "Methods that Mirror Migration: Ethics and Entanglement En Route," in Research Methods in Critical Security Studies, 2nd ed., eds. Mark B. Salter, Can E Mutlu, and Philippe M. Frowd. Routledge. 
  • ‘Border Collision: Power Dynamics of Enforcement and Evasion Across the U.S.-Mexico Line’ (co-authored with Peter Andreas) in Power in Uncertainty: Exploring the Unexpected in World Politics, eds. Peter J. Katzenstein and Lucia Seybert, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Reports, Policy Memos, and Other Writing

  • ‘Journeys Interrupted: Human and Policy Challenges of Assisting Migrants in Monterrey’ (co-authored with Katrina Burgess and Karen Jacobsen) Policy Brief, Institute for Human Security, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
  • ‘Journeys Interrupted: Human and Policy Challenges of Assisting Migrants in Monterrey’ co-authored with Katrina Burgess, Karen Jacobsen and Rodolfo Cordova Alcatraz) Policy Brief, Institute for Human Security, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
  • ‘On Metaphors, Methods and Motion: A Response’ Symposia: Discussion and Debate of ISQ Articles and Themes, International Studies Quarterly Online, will be available online at:
  • ‘Violence and Survival: A Case Study of Flight and Unauthorized Routes, Central American Migrants and Humanitarian Spaces in Mexico’ prepared for the World Peace Foundation
  • ‘Like w War: the New Central American Refugee Crisis’ NACLA Report on the Americas, v.45, n.4: 7-11.
  • Brothers in the Road: Migration and the Globalization of Love’ Research Snapshots, Social Science Research Council
  • ‘A Proposal for an Immediate Response to the Violence against Central American Migrants: Decreasing Migrant Vulnerability to Violence by Improving Local Information Flows’ prepared for the Institute de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana (IDHUCA), San Salvador.

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Wehr Physics Building, Room 468
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(414) 288-6842

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