Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology
As a cultural anthropologist, Denise Brennan's research agenda is informed by three concerns: migration, gender and labor. While these topics may be pursued across disciplines, anthropologists’ ethnographic methods enable her to analyze their local contexts as they connect to larger forces of change. Because her research illuminates such urgent human rights concerns as trafficking into forced labor, women’s poverty, and migrant labor exploitation, she sees her research as part of what has been called “public anthropology." Her specific research and policy concerns emerge from her commitment to use anthropology to better understand how poor women and men craft long-term labor strategies to move their families out of poverty, exploring, in particular, international migration as a labor strategy. Her research trajectory has expanded into a broader inquiry of trafficking and exploitation of migrant labor in the United States and how migrants struggle to maintain control over their work lives. This research agenda has produced two book-length projects, What’s Love Got to Do with It? Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic (Duke University Press 2004), and Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States (Duke University Press: forthcoming 2013). Her current book project, Shattered Families: Detention, Deportation and the Assault on Immigrants in the United States, focuses on how families navigate life in the United States when loved ones are detained, in deportation proceedings, or deported.