I am a doctoral candidate in UC Berkeley's Jurisprudence and Social Policy program. A socio-legal scholar studying migration and asylum with a focus on intersection of public institutions and private storytelling. I am currently writing about how asylum seekers credibly narrate their experiences when applying for protection in the United States. I teach undergraduate courses in legal studies and law and culture, and graduate courses in global migration. 

View my CV here. 


My research focuses on migration, with a particular interest in the global laws, politics and cultural processes which shape and limit access to asylum. 

My work engages with literatures and empirical studies of law, culture, and institutions to situate asylum-seeking in the context of legal language and violence, resistance, and social change. Specifically, my dissertation examines how asylum seekers construct and institutions contest credibility in legal narratives. Links to other publications are available below, and full details can be found in my CV. 

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Stepnitz, Abigail. Forthcoming early 2020. “Between Convention and Resistance: Counter-narrative strategies in political asylum claims,” in The Routledge Handbook of Counter-Narratives, Klarissa Leug and Marianne Wolff Lundholt, eds. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.


Stepnitz, Abigail. 2019. “Refuge Beyond Reach: How Rich Democracies Repel Asylum SeekersLaw & Society Review 53(4): 1388-1390.


Stepnitz, Abigail. 2019. Review of Canning, Victoria. 2018. Gendered Harm and Structural Violence in the British Asylum System. Allegra: Law and anthropology


Stepnitz, Abigail. 2018. “Re(art)iculating Refugees: Spectacle & the cultural contestation of law.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology Vol 61.


Stepnitz, Abigail. 2012.“A Lie More Disastrous than the Truth: Asylum and the Identification of Trafficked Women in the UK.” Anti-Trafficking Review 1: 104-119.



A passionate mentor and educator, my teaching is deeply intertwined with my research and scholarly work. To view syllabi and readings for two recent courses, please visit the websites for Law, Language & Culture, and Migration Studies. For a full teaching history please see my CV.

"Universities should develop programs around professors like Abigail Stepnitz. Stepnitz's clear mastery of the field and ability to share that knowledge in an environment that is challenging and supportive is inspiring" 

- Migration Studies Graduate Student, Fall 2018

Public Engagement


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