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Photo: Rachel Zilberg Photography

Leah Zani, M.A., Ph.D., (she/ze/they) is a public anthropologist, author, and poet based in Oakland, California. They received their M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California, Irvine, where they then served as a Fellow of the Social Science Research Network. Zani uses creative and literary methods to investigate explosives for both civil and military use. 

As a human rights scholar, Zani has worked with humanitarian organizations worldwide. They are an area expert for asylum and human rights cases at Communitology, a consulting firm. They also serve as a Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) Ambassador, assisting displaced scholars as they rebuild their careers in the United States. From 2018 to 2022, they held the Human Rights Seat at the American Anthropological Association (AAA), advising leadership on global human rights and academic freedom issues. In that role, they helped to create the AAA's 2020 Human Rights Statement. From 2012-2015, they conducted fieldwork with explosive clearance teams and victim assistance organizations in Laos, including an assignment with the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley in partnership with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Mines Advisory Group. In 2013, Zani presented their research on the bombing of Laos to the United States Congress.

Zani is the author of Strike Patterns, winner of the 2023 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) Gold Prize for Creative Nonfiction. Strike Patterns is a hybrid memoir of their fieldwork in Laos. They are also the author of Bomb Children, an academic monograph of ethnography and poetry. Two of the poems in Bomb Children won Ethnographic Poetry Prizes from the Society of Humanistic Anthropology. From 2018 to 2021, they served as the Poetry Editor at Anthropology and Humanism.


Zani’s articles, essays, and poems have appeared or will soon appear in Anthropology Quarterly, American Anthropologist, Cultural Anthropology online, Environmental Humanities, IAS Think Pieces, Anthropology and Humanism, Anthropology News, The Common, Kenyon Review Online, Stone of Madness, Consequence Magazine, SAPIENS, Somatosphere, Platypus, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Tikkun Magazine among others.

They write about their research and writing in their newsletter, The Powder Press. Follow them on Substack to learn more.

Zani is also a milliner of fine, handmade hats under their label Atelier Zani.

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