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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 issues of migration, mobility, border policing, sovereignty, law, and ritual economies. 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 and 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, and the American Society for Legal History. He is currently a Stephen M. Kellen Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Research Focus

Professor Kahn's 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.
  • Kahn, J. S. (2019) Smugglers, Migrants, and Demons: Cosmographies of Mobility in the Northern Caribbean. American Ethnologist.
  • Kahn, J. S. (2017) Geographies of discretion and the jurisdictional imagination. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review.
  • Kahn, J. S. (2016) The Caribbean roots of European maritime interdiction. Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology website.
  • Kahn, J. S. (2011) Policing ‘evil’: State-sponsored witch-hunting in the People’s Republic of Bénin. Journal of Religion in Africa. 41(1): 4-34.


  • ANT124: Anthropology of Religion
  • ANT130BN: Anthropology of Migration
  • ANT133: Anthropology of Ocean Worlds
  • ANT 210: Geographies of . . .
  • ANT 210: Magic and Witchcraft: Economies, Temporalities, Ontologies


  • Herbert Jacob Book Prize, Law and Society Association (for the best book in law and society scholarship), 2020
  • Isis Duarte Book Prize, Haiti/Dominican Republic Section, Latin American Studies Association, 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