Jasanoff grew up in Ithaca, New York and comes from a family of academics. Her parents, Sheila and Jay Jasanoff, are both Harvard professors, and her brother Alan is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was educated at Harvard College before studying for a masters degree at Cambridge, where she worked with Christopher Bayly. She later moved on to earn her Ph.D. at Yale under Linda Colley. Prior to arriving at Harvard, she taught at the University of Virginia.
Jasanoff won both the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for Non-Fiction and 2012 George Washington Book Prize for her most recent monograph, Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World. Her first book, Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850, won the Duff Cooper Prize in 2009. She is currently working on a research project centering on the life and times of novelist Joseph Conrad. As part of her research, she has blogged a journey on a cargo ship sailing from China to Europe.