About Isabella

“Listen, read, watch, and learn as Isabella teaches us that defending human rights must be at the core of everything we do.”

– Former President Jimmy Carter

Dr. Isabella Alexander-Nathani is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, educator, and human rights activist. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, her work is motivated by the belief that storytelling can humanize complex political issues and bring positive social change. Her latest book Burning at Europe’s Borders (Oxford University Press) and documentary film The Burning (Small World Films) uncover the human sides of our global refugee crisis. She teaches at UCLA in both the School of Law and the School of Theater, Film & Television, where she offers unique courses on Human Rights Advocacy and Storytelling. She was selected as this year’s Alumni-in-Residence for her alma mater, The University of Chicago. In addition, she serves as Founder and Executive Director of Small World Films, a non-profit production studio that combines grounded social science research and storytelling to lift the voices of marginalized populations to the global stage and fight for international policy change.

Isabella’s work has been featured on CNNBBC, NPR, PRI, and Al Jazeera, and she is a regular contributor to SAPIENS, where she writes a monthly column called “Borders.” Her recent speaking engagements have brought her to stages around the world, including the United Nations General Assembly and the Parliament of the World’s Religions, where she delivered keynote addresses on human rights to audiences of more than 10,000. In 2016, The American Anthropological Association presented her with the “Emerging Leader in Anthropology” award, and her latest projects have been supported by grants from The National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Creative Visions Foundation, and others. She is proud to serve on the Advisory Board of several non-profit organizations, including The Global Village Project, the first school designed specifically for refugee girls in the United States; Stories Found, an organization equipping African youth with filmmaking skills and technology; and SAPIENS, a digital journal connecting social science research to the public.

Originally from the southern US, Isabella has called New York City, Paris, Chicago, Rabat, Atlanta, and Bamako home over the years. She earned her degrees from New York University (BA), the University of Chicago (MA), Emory University (MA, PhD), and the Spéos Institute in France (MFA), and she has held past faculty positions in the Departments of Anthropology and Film & Media Studies at Emory University in Atlanta and at Morocco’s National University in Rabat. While her work frequently brings her back to New York, Geneva, and across Africa, she now happily calls California home, where she lives with her partner, Amit Alexander-Nathani, their children, and their pack of rescue animals.

“A true freedom fighter. Isabella knows that change does not come without struggle and sacrifice. She’s paving the way for a new generation of human rights leaders.”

Civil Rights Activist Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson


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