Gemma Mangione

Area(s) of Interest:  Culture; Health and Illness; Disability; Art; Body & Embodiment; Organizations; Work and Occupations; Knowledge; Research Methods


Through an ethnography of programs for people with disabilities across American art museums and botanical gardens, this project asks: How do people construct museum-going as “good” for our health? Rather than targeted medical interventions, I find that therapeutic framings of accessibility, or “access,” initiatives emerge from the sensory experiences museum educators and therapists facilitate to engage visitors. The project traces the organizational forms, professional expertise, and material cultures differentiating sensory encounters and shaping therapeutic meanings across the gardens and the galleries. As the “health turn” in museum outreach gains traction in cultural policy, my dissertation offers a critical standpoint on museums as sites for the creation of therapeutic citizens.


Mangione, Gemma. 2016. “Making Sense of Things: Constructing Aesthetic Experience in Museum Gardens and Galleries.” Museum & Society 14(1): 33-51.

Griswold, Wendy, Gemma Mangione and Terence E. McDonnell. 2013. “Objects, Words and Bodies in Space: Bringing Materiality into Cultural Analysis.” Qualitative Sociology 36(4): 343-364.
Lead article in special issue, Reassembling Ethnography: Actor-Network Theory and Sociology.

Mangione, Gemma. 2013. “Access to What?: Alzheimer’s Disease and Esthetic Sense-Making in the Contemporary Art Museum.” Poetics 41(1): 27-47.


Maurice J. and Fay B. Karpf Peace Prize Award, 2016
For research intended to promote universal peace, goodwill, tolerance and understanding among the peoples of the earth

American Association of University Women, 2015
American (Dissertation Completion) Fellowship

Northwestern University, Department of Sociology, 2014
Fieldwork Extension Fellowship

Northwestern University, Department of Sociology, 2013
Robert F. Winch Award, Outstanding Graduate Student Lecturer

Northwestern University, The Graduate School, 2009
Mellon Foundation Fellowship in Rhetoric and Public Culture


My work examines the cultural, moral, and political dynamics of legitimacy; I connect practices illuminated through comparative, multi-site ethnography with mechanisms of broader institutional change. To date, I have examined these broader themes across humanities and health fields. I am particularly interested in how knowledge politics across these domains shape interpretation, reproduce or challenge social inequalities, and mediate organizational and professional practice.