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Jeffrey S. Kahn


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Chicago, 2013
  • J.D., Yale Law School, 2010
  • B.A., Dartmouth College, 2001 (summa cum laude)


Jeffrey Kahn is a sociocultural anthropologist and legal scholar with an interest in migration, mobility, border policing, maritime worlds, sovereignty, law, and ritual. His research on these topics has focused geographically on Haiti, the Guantánamo Naval Base, the United States, and the Republic of Bénin. Prior to joining the Anthropology Department at UC Davis, Professor Kahn was an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, an Associate Research Scholar in Law/Robina Foundation International Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School, and a law clerk to the Hon. Judith W. Rogers of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Professor Kahn’s work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright program, the Society of Hellman Fellows, and the American Society for Legal History. 

Research Focus

Professor Kahn's award-winning first book, Islands of Sovereignty: Haitian Migration and the Borders of Empire (University of Chicago Press 2019), examines how boat migration from Haiti to the United States during the last three decades of the twentieth century led to the development of new forms of legal activism, border governance, and oceanic policing that have remade the spatiality of the American nation-state. Kahn's second book project looks to the practices of mobility, the material infrastructures, and the land and sea-based economies that Haitians have fashioned in a Caribbean increasingly saturated by American projects of containment and securitization. Previous research has examined state-sponsored witch-hunting campaigns and the circulation of witch-finding deities in the Republic of Bénin.

Selected Publications


  • Kahn, J. S. (2019) Islands of Sovereignty: Haitian Migration and the Borders of Empire. University of Chicago Press. (Winner: 2020 Herbert Jacob Book Prize, Law and Society Association; Co-Winner: American Political Science Association Section on Migration and Citizenship 2020 Book Award; Winner: 2020 Isis Duarte Book Prize, Haiti/Dominican Republic Section of the Latin American Studies Association; Co-Winner: 2019 Avant Garde Book Prize, Haitian Studies Association)




  • ANT 21: Zombies
  • ANT124: Anthropology of Religion
  • ANT130BN: Anthropology of Migration
  • ANT133: Anthropology of Ocean Worlds
  • ANT 204: Contemporary Issues in Anthropological Theory
  • ANT 210: Geographies of . . .
  • ANT 210: Magic and Witchcraft: Economies, Temporalities, Ontologies
  • HMR 132: Human Rights and the Refugee


  • Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences Fellowship, Stanford University, 2022-23
  • Herbert Jacob Book Prize, Law and Society Association (for the best book in law and society scholarship), 2020
  • Book Prize of the American Political Science Association Section on Citizenship and Migration, 2020
  • Isis Duarte Book Prize, Latin American Studies Association, Haiti/Dominican Republic Section, 2020
  • Haitian Studies Association Avant-Garde Book Prize (for the best single-authored book in Haitian Studies in the social sciences), 2019
  • Lichtstern Dissertation Prize, University of Chicago (for the best dissertation in Anthropology), 2013
  • Ignacio Martín-Baró Human Rights Essay Prize, University of Chicago (for the best doctoral essay on human rights), 2012
  • Charles G. Albom Prize, Yale Law School (for excellence in appellate advocacy in a clinical program), 2010