Anthropologist’s Book on Haitian Asylum Seekers Wins Law and Society Prize

Side by side photos of the UC Davis author Jeffrey Kahn and the cover of his book

A book by Jeffrey Kahn, assistant professor of anthropology, about Haitian boat migration to the United States is the winner of a 2020 Herbert Jacob Book Prize from the Law and Society Association.

Kahn’s book, Islands of Sovereignty: Haitian Migration and the Borders of Empire (University of Chicago Press, 2019), examines how Haitian asylum seekers during the last three decades of the 20th 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.

A sociocultural anthropologist and a legal scholar, Kahn combined ethnography with archival research in writing Islands of Sovereignty.

The Herbert Jacob Book Prize recognizes new, outstanding work in law and society scholarship. One award committee member described Kahn’s ethnography as “breathtaking.”

Islands of Sovereignty, Kahn’s first book, also won a 2019 Avant Garde Book Prize from the Haitian Studies Association and a 2020 Isis Duarte Book Prize from the Haiti-Dominican Republic Section of the Latin American Studies Association