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GSN Profile: Elise Popp, Peace & Conflict Studies Masters Candidate

Elise Popp, Peace & Conflict Studies Candidate

Rutgers Graduate School-Newark
Office of the Dean

Visit: 185 University Avenue

John Cotton Dana Library, Suite 306

Newark, New Jersey 07102

Phone: (973) 353-5834

Elise Popp is interested in social movements, theories of power, liberation theology, and spatial justice. Her research looks at how collective identities can contribute to violence, and how violence in turn informs collective identity. Despite the heft of her graduate work, Popp wasn’t always a stellar student. Actually, she was kicked out of high school.


She transferred to an alternative school with an outdoor education emphasis, and flourished. After graduating, Popp started looking around for work opportunities, “where I could influence people the way I’d been influenced,” she said.


She wound up working with at-risk youth in Outward Bound, and later in a classroom setting with English language learners through AmeriCorps. Popp helped out in a variety of positions (serving in soup kitchens, working in battered women shelters, etc.) in her AmeriCorps year, and observed that often the children struggling at school were the same ones whose parents needed help putting food on the table, or who might be seeking refuge from domestic violence.


She entered Western State Colorado University, thinking of obtaining a teaching certificate and continuing to work with youth, but switched her major to politics and government after deciding she was interested in affecting change at the policy level – so as to address the overlapping issues she saw in her tenure with AmeriCorps.  


The Rutgers MA Program in Peace and Conflict Studies appealed to Popp for its anthropologic lens. She’d thought about law school too, but didn’t want her research confined to a strictly legalist framework.


Her thesis focuses on a 1997 massacre of the Catholic Tzotzil minority group in Chiapas, Mexico. The victims were predominantly women and children. The Tzotzil were sympathetic to the Zapatista rebellion, but themselves non-violent. Local government and police stood by when members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (then Mexico’s ruling party) committed the crime, and also helped with subsequent cover-up. Popp is studying what the Tzotzil have done with their Catholic identity in the aftermath.


The unfortunate piece of post-atrocity settings, Popp says, is that state rhetoric often tends to “justify the structural and cultural violence that prompted the conflict in the first place, and puts the society into a cyclical pattern of violence.”

After graduation, Popp plans to look for public sector or non-profit work, before eventually pursuing a doctorate.

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