Ayelet Shachar

Program Director

Ayelet Shachar (FRSC) is the R.F. Harney Professor and Director of the Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies Program at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, and Professor of Law, Political Science, and Global Affairs. Previously, she was the Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. She has published extensively on the topics of citizenship, global inequality, competitive migration regimes, cultural diversity and gender equality. Her research is motivated by the need to develop new legal principles to address some of the most pressing issues of our time: how to live together in diverse societies, how to grant rights to those who lack formal access to membership, and how to tame the ever-expanding reach of borders and migration control in a world of persistent inequality.

Shachar is the author of Multicultural Jurisdictions: Cultural Differences and Women’s Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2001 & 2009), for which she won the American Political Science Association 2002 Foundations of Political Theory Section Best First Book Award. This work has inspired a new generation of thinking about how to best mitigate the tensions between gender equality and religious diversity. It has also proved influential in public policy and legislative debates. It has been cited by, among others, England’s Archbishop of Canterbury (who described Shachar’s work as “highly original and significant”), Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General, and the Supreme Court of Canada

Shachar’s work combines “big ideas” from law and political theory with innovative problem-solving and institutional design. The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality (Harvard University Press, 2009) was named 2010 International Ethics Notable Book in recognition of its “superior scholarship and contribution to the field of international ethics.” It has created a groundswell of interest among policymakers and academics alike. Located at the intersection of law, economics, and political philosophy, The Birthright Lottery crafts new legal concepts and innovative institutional designs to promote global justice, with the aim of ameliorating the most glaring opportunity inequalities that attach to this system of allocation in today’s world. This work has been the topic of special-issue symposiums, international workshops and roundtables, and the subject of essays that have appeared in professional and interdisciplinary publications, including the American Journal of Comparative LawEthics & International AffairsHarvard Law ReviewIssues in Legal ScholarshipLa Revue Nouvelle, Political Theory, RorotokoNexusEdgeTikkun, and the Literary Review of Canada.  

Shachar is also the lead editor of the field-defining Oxford Handbook of Citizenship (Oxford University Press, 2017 & 2020). This work has already emerged as a major reference work in the field for those engaged with citizenship from a philosophical, political, legal and cultural perspective. It has been described by Joseph Weiler as: “The definitive source on a critical concept in political and social life. Innovative in its conception and authoritative in its excitation.” Pratap Mehta observes that “[n]o other single volume achieves the theoretical acuity, historical depth, legal grounding, and sociological analysis of citizenship that this book manages to achieve. It is clear, wide ranging, and admirably un-parochial in the range of its references.”

Shachar newest book, The Shifting Border: Legal Cartographies of Migration and Mobility (Critical Powers Series, Manchester University Press, 2020), critically examines the role of territory and new measures of managed migration control in selectively restricting – or, conversely, accelerating – mobility and access to the world’s prosperous countries, as governments seek to regain control over a crucial realm of their allegedly waning sovereign authority. Here, as in her previous writings, Shachar not only reveals the deep currents that are reshaping the terrain of law and mobility, but also seeks to develop innovative legal responses to break the current deadlock as she seeks to refute the claim that applicable solutions are beyond reach or impossible to imagine. This work appears under the auspices of the Critical Powers Series, which is “dedicated to constructing dialogues around innovative and original work in social and political theory”. The Shifting Border has been described by Hiroshi Motomura as “a remarkable book. Essential for understanding government responses to people on the move, Shachar’s vivid description, analytical precision, and reasoned persuasion combine to challenge conventional wisdom about ‘borders’ and how they work. The result: exceptional insights into how migration control can be more just. The Shifting Border offers an indispensable roadmap to immigration and refugee debates all around the world.”

Rainer Forst writes: “Starting where The Birthright Lottery ends, in this new path-breaking work, Ayelet Shachar makes visible recently developed border regimes that defy settled notions of territory and human rights, constituting a new level of control and global inequality. Both her empirical and normative analyses are innovative and rich, an exemplar of profound scholarship.” Another reviewer opines: ‘In her impressive book, The Shifting Border, Ayelet Shachar refuses to adhere to what she views as false dichotomies between traditional approaches to a concept (culture, citizenship, borders) and premature diagnoses of the concept’s demise. The force of her argument is consistently oriented towards rethinking the question, offering a new framework to understanding the world. … Shachar’s innovative framework nicely exemplifies the shift from idealized ethical debates to institutional and political analysis’ (Lior Erez, LSE Book Review Blog).

Shachar is a global citizen at heart and the recipient of research excellence awards in four different countries (Canada, Israel, Germany, and the United States). She is an Honorary Professor at Goethe University Frankfurt, where she is affiliated with the Normative Orders Research Centre. Previously, she held visiting appointments as the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor in Human Rights at Stanford Law School, and the Jeremiah Smith Jr. Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. She was also a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, Fulbright Fellow, Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Princeton’s Law and Public Affairs Program (LAPA), Emile Noël Senior Fellow at NYU School of Law, Visiting Scholar at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard, and the W. M. Keck Fellow in Legal Ethics and Professional Culture at Yale.

Shachar earned her LL.B in law and B.A. in political science, summa cum laude, from Tel Aviv University; LL.M. and J.S.D, both from Yale Law School. Before arriving at Yale, she was law clerk to Chief Justice Aharon Barak of the Supreme Court of Israel. Shachar’s publications have appeared in leading law reviews and political philosophy journals, and she has delivered countless talks on her research in a range of academic, policy, and popular venues across the globe. Beyond contributing to key scholarly debates, she has provided pro-bono consultation to judges, non-governmental organizations, the European Parliamentary Research Services, and the World Bank. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the Association of Members of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, the Advisory Board of the Boundaries, Membership & Belonging program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), and the Advisory Board of the Max Planck-Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economics, and Social Change at the University of Cambridge.

Shachar a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada—the highest academic accolade in that country. Most recently, she won the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize—Germany’s most prestigious research award for her groundbreaking work on citizenship and the legal frameworks of accommodation in multicultural societies.