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Asian and Latina Migrants in the United States and the Invisible / Visible Paradigm of Human Trafficking


Asian and Latina Migrants in the United States and the Invisible / Visible Paradigm of Human Trafficking addresses a critical question: who is seen as trafficked? And who is rendered invisible? How the trafficked person has come to matter in the 21st century is a function of the diversity of discourses that extends beyond the legal definition of human trafficking. In order to make sense of "who" is visible as a trafficked person necessitates a method that is interdisciplinary. Narratives produce who is categorized as the trafficked, the trafficker, and the anti-trafficker. Structural and cultural factors solidify categories of human trafficking, further perpetuating what I refer to as an invisible / visible paradigm of human trafficking. I develop an understanding of human trafficking as an invisible / visible paradigm of human trafficking in order to enable a nuanced critique of the erasures that currently exist in narratives of exploitation and labor migration. To address who is visible and invisible when trafficked I examine comparatively Asian and Latinas trafficked into the United States.

Asian and Latina Migrants offers an interdisciplinary approach. The methodology is informed by sociological methods of participation and participant observation as a scholar activist (2005 - present). Between 2009 and 2011 I worked with over 70 organizations and advocated for and / or assessed over one hundred human trafficking cases as a caseworker, programs coordinator and technical assistant provider to anti-trafficking organizations. The fieldwork enabled me to examine how victims of human trafficking are constituted. The legal and social imagining of human trafficking manifests in legal systems, in the representation of the policy and legal cases in the media and in campaigns. And human trafficking is continually redefined by discourses of freedom, labor migration, and sexual economies. Therefore, I also employ a cultural studies lens to unpack the discourse of human trafficking. Who this person is inextricably linked to gendered and raced perceptions of illegality and victimhood.

Asian and Latina Migrants examines transnational labor that bridges Asia-Pacific to the Americas. Chapter two maps the scholarly discourse about human trafficking as intertwined with discourses about freedom, labor and migration, and sexual economies. Chapter three describes the method of Asian and Latina Migrants as drawing upon sociology, legal analysis, and cultural studies. Chapters four through six offers a qualitative analysis of Asian and Latinas trafficked through homo-social relations (women trafficking women). In particular, I study Koreans, Filipinas, and a Peruvian trafficked into domestic work, servitude, sexual slavery, and massage parlors. Chapters four through six focus on feminized labor (domestic worker and sexual economies) and exploitation. Chapter seven concludes with situating resistance and human trafficking; in spite of the violence as systemic and naturalized, survivors are always resisting.

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