Professor of Criminology, Law & Society and Anthropology

Ph.D., Stanford University
(949) 824-1447; (949) 824-7816
3375 SEII



law, culture, immigration, human rights, citizenship, political activism, Central America

Curriculum Vitae: 

Susan Bibler Coutin holds a Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology and is professor in the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society and the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, where she also serves as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs inthe Graduate Division.  Her research has examined social, political, and legal activism surrounding immigration issues, particularly immigration from El Salvador to the United States. Her first book, THE CULTURE OF PROTEST: RELIGIOUS ACTIVISM AND THE U.S. SANCTUARY MOVEMENT (Westview 1993) analyzed how congregations that declared themselves "sanctuaries" for Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees constructed a means and a language of protesting U.S. refugee and foreign policy in the 1980s. Her second book, LEGALIZING MOVES: SALVADORAN IMMIGRANTS' STRUGGLE FOR U.S. RESIDENCY (U. Michigan Press, 2000), analyzed how Salvadoran immigrants negotiated their legal identities in the United States in the 1990s, a period characterized by immigration reform in the U.S. and post-war reconstruction in El Salvador. Her third book, NATIONS OF EMIGRANTS: SHIFTING BOUNDARIES OF CITIZENSHIP IN EL SALVADOR AND THE UNITED STATES (Cornell University Press, 2007), considers how current forms of migration challenge conventional understandings of borders, citizenship, and migration itself. NATIONS OF EMIGRANTS is based on interviews with policymakers and activists in El Salvador and the United States as well as on Salvadoran emigrants' accounts of their journeys to the United States, their lives in the U.S., and, in some cases, their removal to El Salvador. Her newest book, EXILED HOME:  SALVADORAN TRANSNATIONAL YOUTH IN THE AFTERMATH OF VIOLENCE (Duke University Press, 2016) examines the experiences of 1.5 generation migrants, that is, individuals who were born in El Salvador but raised in the United States. Based on interviews with 1.5 generation Salvadorans in Southern California and in El Salvador, this book explores the power and limitations of nation-based categories of membership.  She recently completed is NSF-funded research regarding how the production, retrieval, and circulation of records and files figures in immigrants' efforts to secure legal status in the United States.  Currently, in collaboration with law school colleagues Sameer Ashar, Jennifer Chacon, and Stephen Lee and with funding from the Russell Sage Foundation and the National Science Foundation, she is carrying out a new project entitled, "Navigating Liminal Legalities along Pathways to Citizenship: Immigrant Vulnerability and the Role of Mediating Institutions."  A preliminare report based on this project is available at

Web Links of Research Sites

Other Web Links

Selected Publications

Exiled Home:  Salvadoran Transnational Youth in the Aftermath of Violence  Durham:  Duke University Press. (publication expected May 2016)

Book cover for 'Legalizing Moves'

2000  Legalizing Moves:  Salvadoran Immigrants' Struggle for U.S. Residency.  Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


Nations of Emigrants 2007 Nations of Emigrants: Shifting Boundaries of Citizenship in El Salvador and the United States. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.




  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.”  2015.  “Meet the Experts.”  Interview available at
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler and Veronique Fortin.  (2015).  “Legal Ethnographies and Ethnographic Law.”  Wiley Handbook of Law and Society, Austin Sarat and Patricia Ewick, eds
  • Yngvesson, Barbara and Susan Bibler Coutin.  2015.  “Indignation and Intelligibility:  Contradictions that Place Vulnerable Populations ‘Off the Grid.’”  Oñati Socio-Legal Series
  • Sean Mallin, Susan Coutin and Sally Merry.  2014.  “Interview:  Coutin & Merry.”  PoLAR On-line.
  • Susan Bibler Coutin.  2014.  “Susan Coutin -- on US Immigration Reform, Youth Migration, the 2014 ‘Border Crisis’ and the Current Model of Immigration Law and Policymaking.”  Meridian Beat:  Citizens and Strangers, Cornell University.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler, Justin Richland, and Veronique Fortin.  (2014.)  “Routine Exceptionality:  The Plenary Power Doctrine, Immigrants, and the Indigenous under US Law."  University of California, Irvine Law Review
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2014.  “Demystifying Section Presidency.”  Anthropology News.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2014.  Contributor to Canada Fulbright Blog, “The United States of America:  The Neighbor You Don’t Know.” Available at
  • Merry, Sally and Susan Bibler Coutin.  2014.  “Technologies of Truth in the Anthropology of Conflict.”  American Ethnologist 41(1):1-16
  • Menjívar, Cecilia and Susan Bibler Coutin.  2014.  “Challenges of Recognition, Participation and Representation for the Legally Liminal: A Comment.”  In J. Handmaker, ed., Migration, Gender and Social Justice, 325-330 Springer
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2013.  “Meet Our Contributor:  Susan Bibler Coutin.”  Allegra:  A Virtual Lab of Legal Anthropology.  Available at
  • Seron, Carroll, Susan Bibler Coutin and Pauline White Meeusen.  2013.  “Is there a Canon in Law and Social Sciences?”  Annual Review of Law & Social Sciences 9:287-306
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2013.  “Place and Presence within Salvadoran Deportees’ Narratives of Removal.”  Childhood  20(3):323-336
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2013.  “In the Breach:  Citizenship and its Approximations.”  Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 20(1):109-140
  • McGuire, Connie and Susan Bibler Coutin.  2013.  “Transnational alienage and foreignness: Deportees and foreign service officers in Central America.”  Identities:  Global Studies in Culture and Power. 20(6), 689-704
  • Katie Dingeman-Cerda and Susan Bibler Coutin.  2012  “The Ruptures of Return:  Deportation’s Confounding Effects.”  In Charis M. Kubrin, Marjorie S. Zatz, and Ramiro Martinez, Jr. eds., Punishing Immigrants:  Policy, Politics and Injustice,  pp. 113-137.  New York:  New York University Press
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2012.  Comment on Gonzales and Chavez, “’Awakening to a Nightmare.’” Current Anthropology 53(3):270-271
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2011.  “The Rights of Non-Citizens in the United States.”  Annual Review of Law & Social Science. Vol. 7: 289-308
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2011.  “Falling Outside:  Excavating the History of Central American Asylum Seekers.”  Law & Social Inquiry 36(3):569-596.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2011.  “Prohibited Realities and Fractured Persons:  Remaking Livdes in Transnational Spaces.”  Issues in Legal Scholarship 9(1):  Article 8.  (Denaturalizing Citizenship:  a Symposium on Linda Bosniak’s The Citizen and the Alien and Ayelet Shachar’s The Birthright Lottery).  Available at:
  • Coutin, Susan.  2011.  “Comment:  The Violence of Being Not Quite There.”  Law, Culture, and the Humanities 7(3):457-462.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2011.  “A Report on the Deportation of Salvadorans Who Immigrated to the United States as Children.”  Anthropology of Children and Childhood Newsletter 3(1):4-5.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2011  “’Robbed of a Different Life’:  Alternative Histories, Interrupted Futures.”  In Hester Lessard, Rebecca Johnson, and Jeremy Webber, eds., Storied Communities:  Narratives of Contact and Arrival in Constituting Political Community, pp. 245-267Vancouver:  UBC Press. 
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2011.  “Legal Exclusion and Dislocated Subjectivities:  The Deportation of Salvadoran Youth from the United States.”  In V.J. Squire, ed., The Contested Politics of Mobility:  Borderzones and Irregularity, pp. 169-183.  London:  Routledge.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2010.  “Originary Destinations:  Re/membered Communities and Salvadoran Diasporas.”  Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development 39(1-2): 47-72.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2010.  “Confined Within:  National Territories as Zones of Confinement.”   Political Geography 29(4):200-208.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2010.  “Exiled by Law:  Deportation and the Inviability of Life.”  In The Deportation Regime: Sovereignty, Space, and the Freedom of Movement, Nathalie Peutz and Nicholas de Genova, eds., Duke University Press.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler.  2009.  “Migrants’ Complex Affiliations.”  Focus on Law Studies 24(2):2-3, 10
  • Symposium, 2008 “Law, Ethnography, and the Limits of Explanation.” (Co-edited with Barbara Yngvesson)  PoLAR:  Political and Legal Anthropology Review 31(1).
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2008. “Subverting Discourses of Risk in the War on Terror.” In Risk and the War on Terror, Louise Amoore and Marieke de Goede, eds., pp. 218-232. New York: Routledge.
  • Yngvesson, Barbara and Susan Bibler Coutin. 2008. “Schrodinger’s Cat and the Ethnography of Law.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 31(1):61-78.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2006. "Cause Lawyering and Political Advocacy: Moving Law on Behalf of Central American Refugees." In Cause Lawyering and Social Movements, Austin Sarat and Stu Scheingold, eds., pp. 101-119. Stanford University Press.
  • Hernandez, Ester and Susan Bibler Coutin. 2006. "Remitting Subjects: Migrants, Money, and States." Economy and Society 35(2):185-208.
  • Yngvesson, Barbara and Susan Bibler Coutin. 2006. "Backed by Papers: Undoing Persons, Histories, and Return." American Ethnologist 33(2):177-190.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2006. "Law on the Ground: Jurisdiction, Affiliation, and Transnational Law-making within Unauthorized Migration from El Salvador to the United States," Special issue on "Law Beyond Borders: Jurisdiction in an Era of Globalization," Wayne Law Review 51(3):1147-1159.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2005. "Being en Route." American Anthropologist 107(2):195-206.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2005. "The Formation and Transformation of Central American Community Organizations in Los Angeles." In Latino Los Angeles: Transformations, Communities, and Activism, Gilda Ochoa and Enrique Ochoa, eds., pp. 155-177. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2005. "Contesting Criminality: Illegal Immigration and the Spatialization of Legality." Theoretical Criminology 9(1):5-33.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2003. "Borderlands, Illegality and the Spaces of Non-existence." In Globalization and Governmentalities, Richard Perry and Bill Maurer, eds. University of Minnesota Press, pp. 171-202.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2003. "Cultural Logics of Belonging and Movement: Transnationalism, Naturalization, and U.S. Immigration Politics." American Ethnologist 30(4):508-526.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2003. "Suspension of Deportation Hearings: Racialization, Immigration, and 'Americanness.'" Journal of Latin American Anthropology 8(2):58-95.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler, Bill Maurer, and Barbara Yngvesson. 2002. "In the Mirror: The Legitimation Work of Globalization." Law and Social Inquiry 27(4):801-843. (Awarded the 2002 Law and Society Association best article prize.)
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2002. "Reconceptualizing Research: Ethnographic Fieldwork and Immigration Politics in Southern California." In Practicing Ethnography in Law: New Dialogues, Enduring Methods, June Starr and Mark Goodale, eds., pp. 108-127. New York: Palgrave.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2001. "Questionable Transactions as Grounds for Legalization: Immigration, Illegality and Law." Crime, Law and Social Change 37:19-36.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2001. "Cause Lawyering in the Shadow of the State: A U.S. Immigration Example." In Cause Lawyering and the State in a Global Era, Austin Sarat and Stu Scheingold, eds., pp. 117-140 Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2001 "The Oppressed, the Suspect, and the Citizen: Subjectivity in Competing Accounts of Political Violence." Law and Social Inquiry 26(1):63-94.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2000. "Denationalization, Inclusion, and Exclusion: Negotiating the Boundaries of Belonging." Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 7(2):585-593.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 1999 "Clandestinity and Citizenship among Salvadoran Immigrants." PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. 22(2):53-63.
  • Coutin, Susan bibler. 1998 "From Refugees to Immigrants: The Legalization Strategies of Salvadoran Immigrants and Activists." International Migration Review 32(4):901-925.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler and Susan F. Hirsch. 1998 "Naming Resistance: Dissidents, States and Ethnographers." Anthropology Quarterly 71(1):1-17.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 1996 "'Differences' within Accounts of U.S. Immigration Law." PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 19(1):11-20.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 1995 "'Your Friend, the Illegal': Definition and Paradox within Newspaper Accounts of Immigration Reform." Co-authored with Phyllis Chock. Identities 2(1-2):123-148.
  • Coutin, susan Bibler. 1995 "Smugglers or Samaritans in Tucson, Arizona: Producing and Contesting Legal Truth." American Ethnologist. 22(3):549-571.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 1995 "Ethnographies of Violence: Law, Dissidence, and the State." Review essay for Law and Society Review. 29(3):517-539.
  • Coutin, Susan Bibler. 1994"Enacting Law as Social Practice: The U.S. Sanctuary Movement as a Mode of Resistance." In Susan Hirsch and Mindie Lazarus-Black, eds., Contested States: Law, Hegemony, and Resistance, pp. 282-303. New York: Routledge.
  • Coutin, Susann Bibler. 1993 "The Chicago Seven and the Sanctuary Eleven: Conspiracy and Spectacle within U.S. Courts." PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 16(3):19-28.


Last updated: Thursday, July 14, 2016 - 8:47am