Denise E Brennan




Department of Anthropology
General profile



+1 202-687-7327




Denise Brennan's research focuses on human trafficking, immigration reform, and women's labor. Her latest book, "Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States" has just been released by Duke University Press.

Her book projects include:
* "Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States" (Duke University Press 2014) is a detailed account of life in and after forced labor. Spending nearly a decade following the lives of trafficking survivors, the book recounts their flight from their abusers and the everyday "lifework" involved in rebuilding their lives. It links these firsthand accounts of exploitation with global economic inequities and under-regulated and unprotected workplaces that routinely exploit migrants in the United States. Brennan contends that today's punitive immigration policies undermine efforts to fight trafficking. While many believe trafficking happens only in the sex trade, "Life Interrupted" shows that across low-wage labor sectors -- in fields, factories, and homes -- widespread exploitation can lead to and conceal forced labor. The book ends with a series of steps individuals and policy makers can take to prevent trafficking.

* "What's Love Got to Do with It? Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic" (Duke University Press) follows the lives of resourceful Dominican and Haitian women who capitalize on the sex-tourist boom to meet, feign love, marry, and move overseas with foreign men. They use the local sex-tourist business as a stepping stone to international migration.

* "Shattering Lives: Detention, Deportation and the Assault on Immigrants in the United States." Brennan is conducting research on the effects of detention and deportation. The current immigration regime protects only the most exploited persons -- trafficked persons -- while other exploited migrants are cast as deportable criminals. This new project on how families and communities cope with the threat of -- and the after effects of -- deportation picks up where "Life Interrupted" leaves off. After spending years with these "exceptions" to the U.S. deportation regime, Brennan calls attention to the millions left out of any chance for protection in today's immigration system.


  • PhD (1998) Yale University, Anthropology
  • MPhil (1994) Yale University, Anthropology
  • MA (1991) Johns Hopkins SAIS, International Relations
  • BA (1986) Smith College, Modern European History