Leah Zani, Ph.D., (she/they) is an anthropologist, author, and poet based in Oakland, California. She researches and writes on the social impact of war. She has presented and published extensively for both academic and public audiences; and, in her role as a science advocate, has presented her research to the United States Congress. She has conducted research with academic, museum, and development organizations nationally and internationally, including as a Human Rights Research Fellow with the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley, partnering with the Nobel-prize winning Mines Advisory Group in Laos.
Her book, Bomb Children: Life in the Former Battlefields of Laos (Duke University Press, 2019), is a work of ethnography and poetry based on her fieldwork with explosives clearance operators and development organizations in Laos. Two of the poems featured in Bomb Children have won Ethnographic Poetry Prizes from the Society of Humanistic Anthropology. Her publications have appeared or will soon appear in American Anthropologist, Cultural Anthropology online, Environmental Humanities, Anthropology News, Kenyon Review Online, Consequence Magazine, Somatosphere, Platypus, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Tikkun Magazine among others. From 2018 to 2021, she served as the Poetry Editor at Anthropology & Humanism. She is currently developing her second book, Strike Patterns (Redwood Press), an ethnographic novel based on her fieldwork in Laos.
Zani holds the Human Right Seat on the Advocacy Committee (MPAAC) of the American Anthropological Association. She is a founding member of the Rapid Response Network, a group of experts who consult with
AAA leadership on pressing political issues. She is proud to be part of the team that developed and manages the AAA's Human Rights Statement as a living document.
Zani received her Ph.D. and M.A. in anthropology from the University of California, Irvine, where she then served as a Fellow of the Social Science Research Network. As the first Communications Consultant for the School of Social Sciences at UC Irvine, she pioneered a program to train social scientists to better represent their research to the public. Her research and writing have been supported by grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Program, the Human Rights Center, the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies, the Center for Asian Studies, the Center for Lao Studies, and the Social Sciences Merit Fellowship Program. Based on her research merit and contributions to the university, she was named the Most Promising Future Faculty Member of the Year 2017.