Denise E Brennan




Department of Anthropology
General profile



+1 202-687-7327




Prof. Denise Brennan is an anthropologist who writes about migration, trafficking, and labor. She is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology.

Her most recent book, "Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor" in the United States follows the lives of the first trafficking survivors in the United States.

She currently is conducting research on life without documentation in the United States for a new book "Love and Heartache across Borders." In the summer of 2016, Prof. Brennan is driving coast to coast along the border inside the "100-mile zone" -- an enhanced immigration enforcement zone. She will be speaking with undocumented people about their everyday strategies, struggles, and improvisations.

Prof. Brennan is also the author of "What’s Love Got to Do with It? Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic" which documents how Dominican and Haitian women feign love with their European clients as a strategy to migrate off the island through marriage. She is working on a new updated edition of the book that chronicles major changes in sex-for-sale on the island. Today's clientele are primarily African-American men, many of whom plan vacations with their fraternity brothers. They -- and the women they spend money on -- must now contend with an increased police presence. Living in an anti-trafficking era means that anyone profiled as selling or buying sex risk police crack-downs. This research with women who choose to sell sex -- and keep all their earnings without interference from any intermediaries -- stands as a powerful critique of the conflation of all sex work as trafficking.

Prof. Brennan’s research has been supported by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Henry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the American Association for University Women, and the Fulbright Program. Her teaching has been recognized by the Georgetown College Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching, an Outstanding Community-Based Learning Course Award (for "On the Move: Transnational Migration"), and an Outstanding Faculty Instruction Award (for "Doing Anthropological Fieldwork").

Long involved in workers’ rights and migrants’ rights, Prof. Brennan is an Advisor to the Best Practices Policy Project, and has been a board member of Different Avenues, and HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive), organizations that protect the rights of people who engage in commercial sex. She also founded the Survivor Leadership Training Fund (SLTF) to provide support for trafficking survivor-advocates. All royalties from "Life Interrupted" will be donated to the SLTF.


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