Isabella Alexander

Visiting Assistant Professor

Office: 111 Anthropology. Office Hours Tue 3:00pm - 4:00pm


Additional Contact Information


  • BA, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University
  • MFA, Film, Speos Institut de la Photographie
  • MA, Social Sciences, University of Chicago
  • MA, Anthropology, Emory University
  • PhD, Anthropology, Emory University, 2016



  • Migration
  • International Human Rights
  • Immigration, Refugee & Asylum Law
  • (De)constructing Identity - Race, Class, Gender & Nationalism
  • Political Economy
  • Islam
  • Border Regions
  • Post-Colonial Africa
  • The European Union & the "Superstate" Structure
  • Engaged Anthropology
  • Documentary Film
  • Alternative Ethnographic Research Methods
  • Geographic Specializations: Africa; the Middle East & North Africa; Western Europe

I'm a cultural anthropologist, writer, and documentary filmmaker, and my research focuses on the sociopolitical realities of transitional migration in our world's most critical border regions. 

My most recent project centered on the other side of Europe's unfolding migrant and refugee "crisis." Morocco lies less than eight miles from Spain, and the colonial-era Spanish enclaves that still exist in northern Morocco make it the only African nation to share a land border with Europe. They also make it the primary crossing point for African migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers fleeing political and economic instability in their home countries. My forthcoming book, Burning at Europe's Borders: Migration in the Age of Border Externalization (working title), combines three years of ethnographic engagement with the hundreds of thousands of sub-Saharan Africans trapped under brutal conditions in Morocco with my analysis of the EU's efforts to mold Morocco into a holding cell through their illicit border control practices and policies. My other recent publications on this research have looked at the racial and gendered dimensions of political categorizations of inclusion and exclusion, and the implications that European policies could have for other critical borders regions. This project was supported by a multitude of grants from: The National Science Foundation, Fulbright, Fulbright-Hays, American Institute for Maghrib Studies, West African Research Association, Saharan Crossroads Fellowship, Creative Visions Foundation, and Emory’s Visual Scholarship Initiative, and it earned the annual "Emerging Leader in Anthropology" award from the National Association of Student Anthropologists.

My current project takes a comparative approach, expanding from the Western Mediterranean route  (Morocco-Spain) to examine the other two most trafficked migratory routes in our world today – the Central (Libya-Italy) and Eastern (Egypt-Greece). Applying traditional and alternative ethnographic strategies, I'm examining the growing “business” of human migration seen in response to new policies of border externalization in the EU, the US and Australia. This project will expose the role of third-party political agreements in shaping migratory practices, giving voice to the lived experiences of those who are trapped at the core and devising policy interventions as multidimensional as the global crisis.

I've always been drawn to the stories that are the hardest to tell – the stories that have been hidden or silenced  – and I continue to be motivated by my belief that storytelling has the power to humanize even the most complex global issues. Working at the intersection of migration studies and international human rights, I aim to communicate my research in diverse formats, in order to reach not only scholars and students, but also policymakers and popular audiences. I'm a regular contributor to NPR, PRI, CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera, and my recent research  has informed the policies of the United Nations and the European Commission on Migration and Asylum. I work in partnership with international NGOs to fight for the improved treatment of minors who make up a significant portion of the world's rapidly expanding displaced population, and I organize a public conference on "New  Migrations" in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Morocco's national university every year. After writing and speaking out extensively on the failure of European and African nations to uphold basic human rights conventions in their current treatment of migrant populations, my passion to engage with even broader audiences has driven me to write, direct and produce my first feature-length documentary film, The Burning, which is scheduled for release in the summer of 2018. You can learn more about this project at


  • ANT 385 Special Topics - The Migrant & Refugee"Crisis" (Whose Right to Asylum?)
  • ANT 385 Special Topics - The Arab Spring (Muslims, Media, and the Making of the "Bad Guys")
  • ANT 385 Special Topics - Visual Anthropology & Filmmaking as a Research Method
  • ANT 350 Globalization & Transnational Culture
  • ANT 280 Anthropological Perspectives - Africa
  • ANT 202 Concepts & Methods in Cultural Anthropology
  • ANT 101 Introduction to Anthropology
  • FILM 385 Documentary Filmmaking
  • FILM 107 Introduction to Digital Video
  • FILM 106 Introduction to Digital Photography