Jennifer Zelnick

Jennifer Zelnick

UC Irvine, Anthropology

Jennifer’s dissertation, “Life and Death After America: Deportee Transnationalism Among Cambodian American Refugees,” examines the deportation process and lifeworlds of deported and deportable Cambodian American refugees. Drawing on over two years of multi-sited transnational ethnographic fieldwork in Cambodia and California, her dissertation challenges extant binaries of migrant il/legality and refugee “deservingness” while simultaneously destabilizing ideas about diasporic belonging, US militarism and empire, and the homeland. Jennifer argues that deportee transnationalism reveals the sociopolitical and legal complexities surrounding declining liberal humanitarianism’s acceptance of refugees, alongside the expansion of the US deportation regime.

Jennifer’s project emerges from deep commitments to research in service of social justice. Her work is grounded in direct service to deportees, deportable refugees, and deportee-serving organizations through pro bono legal and policy support to assist individuals and families fighting deportations.  

Jennifer’s work has been supported by the National Science Foundation (#1823363), the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Fellowship Program, the Center for Khmer Studies, and the University of California, Irvine (Anthropology Department, Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies, Center for Asian Studies, and Christian Werner Fellowship). She received her BA in Anthropology from Haverford College, and her MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago.

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