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By Kathleen Holder on May 20, 2020

Islands of Sovereignty

Book cover and Jeffrey S. Kahn mugshot

“No one concerned about the frightening history of the country’s relationship to others at another troubling moment — and no one who cares about the discretionary sovereignty of the modern state and its borders — can afford to look away from the story Kahn tells in this major intervention.” — Samuel Moyn, Yale Law School, author of “Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World”


Jeffrey Kahn’s book about Haitian boat migration to the United States is the winner of a 2020 Herbert Jacob Book Prize from the Law and Society Association.

Islands of Sovereignty 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.

Kathleen Holder is a content strategist and writer in the College of Letters and Science.