Professor Akbar received her B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University, and her J.D. from the University of Michigan, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Michigan Law Review. After law school, she clerked for Judge Gerard E. Lynch in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.
She spent two years as a staff attorney with the Queens Legal Service Corp., part of Legal Services NYC, in a community-based battered women’s legal services project. Then, she taught for three years as a clinical fellow with the International Human Rights Clinic at New York University, and one year at City University of New York Law School in the CLEAR (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility) project, a cross-clinical collaboration between the Immigrant & Refugee Rights Clinic and the Defenders Clinic.
Her interdisciplinary research focuses on the intersections of national security and criminal law, and on the functioning of the contemporary punitive state. She has written extensively on the role of counter-radicalization in shaping national security policing and prosecutions. Underlying her research is an effort to understand the relationships between law and legal discourse, policing, and inequality.
Her clinical practice is focused on law and organizing for marginalized communities. With her students, she has litigated in state, federal, and transnational forums against domestic and foreign governments for human and civil rights abuses, researched and written community-based human rights reports, and collaborated with community organizations in campaigns for public education and collective change.