Pilar Margarita Hernández Escontrías

Pilar Margarita Hernández Escontrías

Assistant Professor of Law

 Sullivan Hall 466


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  • Criminal law
  • Crimmigration
  • Critical Race Theory and Abolitionist Praxis
  • Empirical Methods


  • A.B in Art and Archaeology, Princeton University, 2008
  • M.Phil in Archaeology, University of Cambridge, 2010
  • M.A. in Anthropology, Northwestern University, 2013
  • Certificate in Paleography, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2015
  • Ph.D in Anthropology, Northwestern University, 2016
  • J.D., University of California, Irvine School of Law, 2020


Pilar Margarita Hernández Escontrías (she/her/hers/ella) is a Chicana/Xicana educator who lives with faith that a more loving and just world is possible. The beneficiary of generations of sacrifice and activism, her research examines the intersections between law, inequality, and the history of racial capitalism from a critical race perspective and centering abolitionist vision and praxis. Across a range of sites and generating empirical data, Hernández Escontrías’s work considers how law constructs and upholds settler-colonial projects over time through the development of infrastructures we know as criminal and immigration law.

Citizenship laws have played a central role in establishing regimes that confer legal rights upon subjects based on race, country of origin, gender, abilities, and engagement with capital markets. These laws have also dictated who can do what and who can go where, with criminal sanctions emerging to enforce and police certain bodies’ engagements with their worlds. In that vein, she is developing her Ph.D. dissertation into a book manuscript that examines how Black and indigenous communities in Abya Yala/the Américas navigated Spanish colonial laws to challenge racial legal schema through their relationships with property and with one another. This manuscript draws from data collected during her archival and archaeological fieldwork in Perú from 2013-2015.

In addition to her research, she is committed to democratizing the legal profession. In 2020-2021, she initiated a nationwide movement of bar applicants who advocated for attorney licensure reform during the pandemic. She presented several reports on structural inequalities in the bar exam to the Supreme Court of California and the State Bar of California, which resulted in the establishment of California’s first-ever Provisional Licensing Program. She looks forward to advancing similar interventions in the state of Washington.

Hernández Escontrías served as an inaugural law clerk to Judge Jennifer Sung of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Before that, she was an appellate defender with the California Appellate Project, representing indigent clients in their direct criminal appeals before a three-judge panel. She was a Research Social Scientist at the American Bar Foundation, and has taught numerous courses at Northwestern University, Truman College of the City Colleges of Chicago, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Occidental College.

Hernández Escontrías earned her JD from University of California, Irvine School of Law; her master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology from Northwestern University; a master of philosophy degree in archaeology from University of Cambridge in England; and a bachelor’s degree in art and archaeology from Princeton University.