Photo of Darryl Li
Darryl Li PhD, Harvard University, 2012
JD, Yale Law School, 2009

On leave for the 2023-2024 academic year.
Office: Haskell 227 Phone: (773) 702-4001 Email Interests:

Law; war; empire and colonialism; race; mobility; migration; carcerality; universalism; region-formation; sovereignty; violence; security; humanitarianism; human rights; Middle East, South Asia, Balkans.

Associate Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences in the College; Associate Member, Law School

Darryl Li is an anthropologist and legal scholar thinking mostly about questions of war, law, migration, empire, and racialization in the currents between the Middle East, South Asia, and the Balkans. He is the author of The Universal Enemy: Jihad, Empire, and the Challenge of Solidarity (Stanford University Press, 2020), an ethnographic and archival study of "jihadist foreign fighters" in the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The book develops an anthropological approach to the comparative study of universalism and was awarded the William A. Douglass prize from the Society for the Anthropology of Europe.

Li has participated in litigation arising from the "War on Terror" as party counsel, amicus, or expert witness in Alien Tort, material support, denaturalization, immigration detention, asylum, and Guantánamo (habeas and military commissions) proceedings. He is a member of the bar in New York and Illinois and volunteers as an intake attorney for abolitionist bail funds in the Chicago area. In a previous life, he worked for several human rights organizations.

Li's current research and teaching agenda encompasses several broad streams: (1) theorization of captivity as a way to reconnect longstanding questions on law, racialization, and capitalism and to reconsider the politics of relating abolition to anti-imperialism; (2) migrant military labor ("mercenaries") across the Indian Ocean through questions of labor, sacrifice, violence, and counterrevolution; (3) racialization in international law, bridging doctrinal (CRT and TWAIL) perspectives to legal histories of empire and migration; (4) methodological questions for anthropology of law vis-à-vis legal scholarship, legal practice, and sociolegal studies.


Recent Research / Recent Publications

Selected Publications

How to Read a Case: Ethnographic Lawyering, Conspiracy, and the Origins of Al QaedaAmerican Anthropologist.

Race, Palestine, and International LawAJIL Unbound (co-authored with Noura Erakat & John Reynolds).

Captive Passages: Geographies of Blackness in Guantánamo MemoirsTransforming Anthropology.

La solidarité contre la souveraineté : penser autrement le phénomène du « djihad sans frontières »Anthropologie et Sociétés.

Aid as pan-Islamic Solidarity in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Toward an Anthropology of UniversalismAmerican Ethnologist.

Genres of Universalism: Reading Race into International Law, with Help from Sylvia WynterUCLA Law Review.

Teaching the Global War on TerrorUnderstanding and Teaching the Modern Middle East, ed. Omnia El Shakry, University of Wisconsin Press.

The Spy Who Came in From the SouthCultural Anthropology.

The Universal Enemy: Jihad, Empire, and the Challenge of SolidarityStanford University Press [introduction available here].

- For conversations around the book, see these interviews with Allegra LabChapati MysteryIntercepted podcast, Islamicate Authors podcast, JadaliyyaThe Ottoman History PodcastThe Revealer, and Third World Approaches to International Law Review or this forum on The Immanent Frame.

From Exception to Empire: Sovereignty, Carceral Circulation, and the "Global War on Terror." In Ethnographies of U.S. Empire, eds. Carole McGranahan & John Collins, Duke University Press.

Jihad in a World of Sovereigns: Law, Violence, and Islam in the Bosnia CrisisLaw & Social Inquiry.

Offshoring the Army: Migrant Workers and the U.S. MilitaryUCLA Law Review.

Capital, Migration, Intervention: Rethinking Gulf Islamic Charities. In Gulf Charities and Islamic Philanthropy in the "Age of Terror" and Beyond, eds Robert Lacey & Johnathan Benthall, Gerlach Press.

Taking the Place of Martyrs: Afghans and Arabs Under the Banner of IslamArab Studies Journal.

A Universal Enemy?: "Foreign Fighters" and Legal Regimes of Exclusion and Exemption Under the "Global War on Terror." Columbia Human Rights Law Review.

The Gaza Strip as Laboratory: Notes in the Wake of DisengagementJournal of Palestine Studies.

Echoes of Violence: Considerations on Radio and Genocide in RwandaJournal of Genocide Research.