Sally Merry, Silver Professor; Professor of Anthropology; Associate Chair

Areas of Research/Interest

Anthropology of law; human rights; colonialism; transnationalism; gender and race; US, Pacific and Asia/Pacific region, forms of governance and audit culture, governmentality.


Sally Engle Merry is Silver Professor of Anthropology at New York University. She is also a Faculty Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the New York University School of Law, and past president of the American Ethnological Society. Her recent books include Colonizing Hawai‘i (Princeton, 2000), Human Rights and Gender Violence(Chicago, 2006), Gender Violence: A Cultural Perspective (Blackwell, 2009) and The Practice of Human Rights, (co-edited with Mark Goodale; Cambridge, 2007). Her most recent book, The Seductions of Quantification: Measuring Human Rights, Gender Violence, and Sex Trafficking (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016) examines indicators as a technology of knowledge used for human rights monitoring and global governance. She has co-edited two books on quantification, The Quiet Power of Indicators, with Kevin Davis and Benedict Kingsbury (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and A World of Indicators, with Richard Rottenburg, Song-Joon Park, and Johanna Mugler (Cambridge University Press 2015). She is the author or editor of fifteen books and special journal issues. She received the Hurst Prize for Colonizing Hawai‘i in 2002, the Kalven Prize for scholarly contributions to sociolegal scholarship in 2007, and the J.I. Staley Prize for Human Rights and Gender Violence in 2010. In 2013 she received an honorary degree from McGill School of Law and was the focus of an Author Colloquium at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZIF) at the University of Bielefeld, Germany. She is an Honorary Professor at Australian National University.

Selected Publications

2015  The Quiet Power of Indicators: Measuring Governance, Corruption, and Rule of Law. Edited by Sally Engle Merry, Kevin Davis, and Benedict Kingsbury. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

2015  A World of Indicators: The making of governmental knowledge through quantification, edited by Richard Rottenburg, Sally Engle Merry, Sung-Joon Park and Johanna Mugler. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

2016 The Seductions of Quantification: Measuring Human Rights, Gender Violence, and Sex Trafficking. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

2016 The New Legal Realism, Vol II: Studying Law Globally Co-edited with Heinz Klug. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

2014. “Technologies of Truth in the Anthropology of Conflict.” Co-authored with Susan Coutin. American Ethnologist 41(1): 1-16.

2014. Abridged version reprinted in Zeitschrift fur Menschenrechte (Journal of Human Rights), issue on Menschenrechte und Gewalt (Human Rights and Power): 8 (1): 28-48.

2014. “Global Legal Pluralism and the Temporality of Soft Law.” Special Issue on Temporalities of Law, Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law. 46 (1): 108-122.

2014. “Measuring the World: Indicators, Human Rights, and Global Governance.” pp.141 -165 in Law in Transition: Human Rights, Development and Transitional Justice. Ruth Buchanan and Peer Zumbansen, eds. Oxford: Hart Publishing Ltd. (expanded version of 2011 article.)

2014. “Inequality and Rights: Commentary on “The Unbearable Lightness of Rights” by Michael McCann.” Law and Society Review 48 (2): 285-295.

2015. “Firming Up Soft Law: The Impact of Indicators on Transnational Human Rights Legal Orders.” Chapter 11, pp. 374-400 in Transnational Legal Orders. Edited by Terence C. Halliday and Greg C. Shaffer. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

2015. “Stateless Law: Before, Inside and Outside the Law of the State.” Prologue, Chapter 1, pp. 3-9 in Stateless Law: Evolving Boundaries of a Discipline. Helge Dedek & Shauna Van Praagh, eds,  Farnham, UK: Ashgate.

2015. “Quantification and the Paradox of Measurement: Child Rights in Tanzania.” Co-authored with Summer J Wood. Current Anthropology. Vol 56 (2): 205-229.

2015. “ The Turn to Critical Legal Pluralism: The Contributions of Roderick Macdonald.” Chapter 27, pp. 317-322 in The Unbounded Level of the Mind: Rod Macdonald’s Legal Imagination. Richard Janda, Rosalie Jukier, and Daniel Jutras, eds, McGill-Queen’s University Press.

2015. Commentary on “Audit Culture Revisited: Rankings, Ratings, and the Reassembling of Society.” Cris Shore and Susan Wright. Current Anthropology 56 (3): 435-6. 34

2016. “The Rule of Law and Authoritarian Rule: Legal Politics in Sudan.” Law and Social Inquiry 41 (2): 465-470.

2016. “Human Rights Monitoring, State Compliance, and the Problem of Information.” Pp. 32-52 in The New Legal Realism, Vol. II: Studying Law Globally. Edited by Heinz Klug and Sally Engle Merry. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.